Colonel Andrew C. Lacy, a son of two Hungarian immigrants
and a long time resident of Ohio, was born in Elyria, Ohio
April 30, 1921. He graduated from Nova High School
in 1939 and attended Ashland College for two years before
enlisting in the United States Army Air Corp as an Aviation
Cadet. Before departing for his overseas assignment he married
a lifelong family friend, Mary E. Ballas.
Colonel Lacy began his military career in the United States Army Air Corps’ Aviation
Cadet Program in 1942. He graduated from pilot training, Class 44B, in
1944. He received his commission as a second lieutenant and the coveted
wings of an army aviator in February of 1944. He served overseas in the European
Theater of Operations with the 334th Squadron, 4th Fighter Group flying combat
missions in P-51s from Debden, England, until shot down by enemy anti-aircraft
fire on February 21, 1945.
On this cold February day, Lacy was part of a mission comprised of forty-eight
P-51 fighters escorting an assigned box of B-17 and B-24 bombers through flak
infested skies to the Nurnberg, Germany target area. The fighters escorted
the bombers to and from the target safely, and then returned to Germany to seek
additional Targets of Opportunity. At this point in the war, opposition
by German fighters was almost non-existent.
While searching for targets in the German countryside, Lacy spotted a train hidden
on the tracks in a heavily wooded area. Realizing it was a freight train and
not a passenger train, Lacy decided to attack. After dropping his external fuel
tanks on the train (for the tailing fighters to set ablaze), he felt something
slam into the underside of his aircraft. Almost immediately his cockpit
filled with smoke, and he had lost all oil pressure. He knew the engine
would not be operating for very long, and his two wingmen confirmed he was leaking
gas and smoke in large quantities.
Soon fire began appearing alongside his engine cowling, and smoke was so dense,
he could barely see the instruments. After his second attempt at a bail, Lacy
was free of his aircraft, and tried to land near a grove of trees to act as his
sanctuary. When he hit the ground, he sprained both ankles, and as he started
to move for safety, it didn’t take long for him to realize he was being
fired at by enemy troops. After analyzing his situation, he states, “I
decided the best course of action was for me to surrender…what an inglorious
ending for a Sierra Hotel fighter pilot!”
Lacy’s flying career spanned over three decades. He flew over twenty-five
military and civilian aircraft, and logged over 6500 hours of flying time, mostly
in fighters. Colonel Lacy flew fifty combat missions over Europe and three
over the jungles of South Vietnam.
His many military decorations included: U.S. Air Medal with three Oak leaf clusters,
AF Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Prisoner of War Medal, World
War II Victory Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, American Campaign Medal, Ohio Distinguished
Service Award, AF Reserve Meritorious Service Award, European Theater of Operations
Award, Vietnam Service Award and many others for his long and dedicated service
to his country.
Colonel Lacy is a widower, his wife having succumbed to Alzheimer’s
in 2004, just five months short of their 60th wedding anniversary. Together,
they had three children, and six grandchildren. Lacy
currently resides in Enon, Ohio and serves as the National
Secretary/Treasurer of the Association of the 4th Fighter Group,
an organization of veterans who served honorably with the 4th
overseas during World War II.