WWII Glider pilot Captain Len Snyder takes to the skies again for his 95th Birthday!

Mission: As a surprise for his birthday, take Len to the Williams Soaring Center for a glider plane flight.

Born in Ohio, Len attended Chicago’s Art Institute for three years until the outbreak of WWII caused him to volunteer and join the Army Air Corps. Because his grandfather had been a private glider pilot and had taken Len up as a youngster on numerous occasions, Len knew a little about gliders. Believe it or not, the Army took advantage of his experience.

After he received his silver glider pilot’s wings with the superimposed “G” over its shield, Len was sent to England where he transitioned from the Waco into the much larger British glider, the Horsa. It could carry up to 30 troops, an amphibious jeep, a towed anti-tank gun, etc. He was assigned to the 24th Squadron of the 220th Glider Transport Group.

Len’s first two combat landings in the European Theater were in Normandy on D-Day minus a couple of hours and then in Nancy, France. His third so-called landing actually became a tragic crash-landing in Saargemund, Germany. While piloting at 5,000 feet with an amphibious jeep on board, he was hit with a shard from a German 88 mm anti-aircraft shell. It took out half of his right hand, a couple of ribs, half of his colon, and exited through his back.

He crashed in the trees where members of the famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team extracted him and four other survivors from the wreckage. While removing Len’s bloody glove, they noticed that two fingers came off with it. By the grace of God, ice was found somewhere nearby. Len and his severed fingers were evacuated to Scotland by powered aircraft where his life was saved and his fingers re-attached.

During four years in a VA hospital here in the States recovering from his wounds and about one dozen surgeries, he met and ultimately married his nurse, Luella, the love of his life, who he lost a little over three years ago.

Len regained the use of his right hand and resumed work as a freelance illustrator. Later, he was primarily employed as the chief illustrator for Hewlett Packard for 25 years until he retired. His drawing talent is still with him even today.

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