'When you get your mother's blessings you can lick the world.'
Lee Flessor swears the blessing from his Greek mother took him safely through the war and protected him when everyone else in a bombing died.
He pinned the small black cloth cross she gave him to his T-shirt. Flessor wore it throughout his stint with the Air Force in India and the Mariana Islands.
"When you get your mother's blessings," the 87-year-old said, "you can lick the world."
It saved him one morning in January 1945, he says, when a bomb accidentally fell into the bay under the B-29 he was assigned to on a base in India.
He was part of the ground crew that loaded bombs and sent B-29s over the Himilayas to hit the west side of Japan.
But the mission his plane was slated for had been canceled. So, Flessor and the others in the bomb bay had to unload the weapons in the belly of the giant plane back onto the storage racks.
One slipped. Its band broke. It fell to the ground and detonated.
Flessor felt the blast from the catwalk.
He caught a few pieces of shrapnel but managed to drag one of the boys from the bay.
The man died two days later.
Nine were killed, 21 were injured. Of those in the bomb bay, Flessor was the lone survivor.
He was awarded the Soldier's Medal for valor, one of the country's highest medals given to servicemembers outside of combat situations.
Flessor was sent later in the year to Tinian, the base where the B-29s Enola Gay and Bockscar were launched to drop the atom bombs on Japan.
He went on just one mission in the air, near the end of the war.
The day the armistice was signed on the USS Missouri between Japan and the United States, Flessor rode passenger in one of what he said were hundreds of B-29s that flew over Japan.
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