Update August 13,
2010: additional Wagner remains received at Grandview Cemetery
Background letters by Col. James E. Moschgat:
are by Frank Charney and other contributors
Wagner, Nanty Glo's
World War II Air Force hero
Nanty Glo High School graduating class lists a member named Boyd "Buzz"
Wagner and states simply he was a war hero. I believe "Buzz" warrants more of
an introduction, especially to the younger generations who view this Nanty Glo
I remember as a youngster
the outbreak of World War II and the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on
December 7, 1941. Those early days of the war were dark and bleak as the Japanese
quickly invaded and captured Pacific Isles like the Philippines. The United States
desperately needed heroes to offset the continuing flow of bad news, as the Japanese
continued their conquering sweep in the Southwest Pacific.
Lieutenant Boyd "Buzz" Wagner provided some
relief of his own. On December 13, returning from a reconnaissance sortie in the
Philippines, he met four enemy fighters, shooting them down and strafing others
on the field. On December 16 he and two other American fighters attacked a Japanese
airfield with fragmentation bombs and machine guns and claimed to have destroyed
17 enemy planes, plus supply dumps and airport installations. In this engagement
he also shot down an enemy plane.
heroics made him the first US Army Air Force ace. In April 1942, as a lieutenant
colonel, Wagner shot down three additional Japanese planes over New Guinea. "Buzz"
was a handsome man who sported an Errol Flynn mustache. He was perfect for the
press, and his victories helped boost wartime morale. Although he wished to remain
in combat, he was sent to the United States where it was believed he would be
of greater value in training new pilots. On November 29, 1942, he crashed to his
death on a routine flight from Eglin Field, Florida, to Maxwell Field, Alabama.
For some unexplainable
reason, his plane veered way off course of the planned flight and it was months
before his crashed plane and body were discovered. He
is buried at Grandview Cemetery, above Johnstown, near Westmont.
(The Wagner family must have moved to Johnstown,
and that city claimed "Buzz" as their own. No mention of a Nanty Glo native and
former resident appears in my clippings. An edition of the Johnstown Tribune
supplied all subscribers an 8 x 10 black and white photo of Lieutenant Colonel
Boyd "Buzz" Wagner. I still have my copy of his picture and he certainly had handsome,
striking features. It would be interesting to know if someone like George Dilling
Capt. Colin P.
I would like to mention
another war hero of the early Pacific conflict, Captain Colin P. Kelly. On December
10, while being attacked by Japanese fighters on all sides, Captain Kelly and
his crew flew his lone B-17 bomber and attacked what was believed to be an enemy
battleship. Three of his bombs struck and severely damaged the ship. Before he
could escape, his plane was shot down and Captain Kelly was killed while his crew
members parachuted to safety.
American press fed upon the incident and there was some controversy that it was
not a battleship, but a Japanese cruiser that was not severely damaged). Regardless,
Captain Kelly's courage and bravery is admired and sacrificing his life contributed
greatly to boosting America's morale when it was sorely needed.
fatal flight was sabotaged
Added June 10, 2006
How very interesting to read about
Buzz Wagner. He was my dear Great-grandmotherís (Rebecca Ruddock Morley)
nephew. So I guess that makes him a third cousin to me. She talked
about him all the time when I was growing up (1960s-1970s) in Ohio.
Little did we know that he was such a hero.
Interestingly, his family always
thought his final (fatal) mission was sabotaged. Iím uncertain as
to what led them to that conclusion. I was too young to ask those
detailed questions. How very proud I am to learn from your website
about his missions and contributions to the war effort. I will be
certain to pass the address along to the rest of my family. Many of
us do genealogy as a hobby.
Linda MacLaine Cole
war hero Buzz Wagner
I read Frank Charney's article concerning the heroics of "Buzz Wagner." Just a
footnote concerning the WWII hero...Buzz was born in Emeigh (the northern tip
of Cambria County).... Sad to say, people living in Emeigh today do not recall
When I attended high
school (Cherry Tree High) we had Colonel Wagner's picture hanging in our homeroom...his
first cousin, Maggie Davison, was one of our teachers. I vividly recall Wagner
with his mustache, pipe, leather flying jacket, and white scarf...Lowell Thomas
(the renowned radio newscaster) wrote a book about World War II heroes. These
Men Shall Never Die is the title, and it included Wagner's story along with
the same photo that I remember.
The people of Nanty Glo and Emeigh should be proud to know that Buzz Wagner once
lived in their little towns.
Wagner High School at
Clark Air Force Base, the Philippines, is named for Boyd D. "Buzz" Wagner. The
school's 1984 yearbook, the Fledgling, contained this tribute to Wagner.
Capt. Boyd D. "Buzz" Wagner was the the first
American World War II ace when he shot down his fifth Japanese aircraft while
operating out of Clark Field on December 8, 1941.
Flying a reconnaissance mission out of Clark, Capt. Wagner was jumped by two Zeroes
[Japanese fighter planes] over Northern Luzon. As a trained aeronautical engineer,
Capt. Wagner knew a great deal about the performance of the P-40.
With the Zeroes in pursuit, Capt. Wagner suddenly
throttled back, letting the surprised enemy fly over his head. Then he poured
machine gun bullets into their tails. Turning back, Capt. Wagner strafed a Japanese
air field on the same run. The Japanese had 12 planes on the line and Capt. Wagner
left five of them burning. "My gas was running low," he wrote in a report, "so
I returned home."
AB Wagner High School is named for Capt. Wagner. In honor of Capt. Wagner and
the 21st Anniversary of the commissioning of Wagner High school, Fledgling '84
recognizes this World War II ace with the dedication of our yearbook in his name.
photo of Buzz Wagner
Stager (NGHS Class of 1942) sent this photo and writes:
is another photo of Buzz Wagner. I like it best of all I have seen. His smile
and informal attire adds to his charm. I would have to guess that it was taken
while he was stationed in the Philippine Islands. He was truly a remarkable person.