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Update August 13, 2010: additional Wagner remains received at Grandview Cemetery

Click here for Tribune-Democrat
report of August 13 2010

Background letters by Col. James E. Moschgat:

Seeking reminiscenses for book on Buzz Wagner

Wagner crash site, Nanty Glo HS ring, found

The following are by Frank Charney and other contributors

Buzz Wagner, Nanty Glo's
World War II Air Force hero

The 1934 Nanty Glo High School graduating class lists a member named Boyd Flying Ace Buzz Wagner"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 site.

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.

These 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 knew him.)

Capt. Colin P. Kelly

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.

The 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.

—Frank Charney

See another reminiscent of Wagner by Frank Charney here

Family thought 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

More about 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 him.

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.

Bill Scott

Wagner High School dedication

formal portrait

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.

While 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."

Clark 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.

'New' photo of Buzz Wagner

December 1, 2002

Lou Stager (NGHS Class of 1942) sent this photo and writes:

Here 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.

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