Leo S. Bartley
Santa Paula, CA
QCWA # 8176
Bartley volunteered for the National Guard in August 1940 with fellow classmates from Santa Paula High School's class of 1939. With the commitment came an exemption from the draft that was inevitably on the way.
They were part of the 76th Field Artillery Brigade and conducted their own training in Ventura County. In April 1941, they were called to Fort Warren, Wyo., then to Fort Lewis, Wash., for artillery training.
In April 1942, Bartley had the opportunity to join the Army Air Corps.
"I saw a poster that said, 'You, too, can fly the big ones,' and I thought it sounded like something I wanted to do," Bartley said.
He was sent to aviation cadet training then to Roswell, N.M., as a second lieutenant pilot. Ironically, it was there that he ran into fellow Santa Paulan Clifford Lonsdale, an aircraft mechanic stationed on the base.
Bartley began training on B-17s and eventually was sent to Washington and Utah for combat training with the 457th bomb group. In December 1943, he boarded a train bound for Nebraska, where he was issued the necessary materials for overseas duty. From Nebraska, Bartley traveled by train to New York and boarded a minesweeper for a 13-day trip to Europe. He was ordered to Station 128 in Deenethorpe, England.
"We lost a lot of guys in training," Bartley said. "One of them was the lead pilot for the 401st bomb group. They needed replacements and took some of the guys from the 457th to the 401st. They took my crew but kept me with the 457th. My crew refused to fly with their new pilot, so I was eventually sent to fly with my crew in the 401st."
Bartley had flown only one mission with the 457th bomb group before the transfer - a six-hour-plus mission over Munster, Germany.
For nearly six months, Bartley continued serving as a pilot for the 401st bomb group, 614th bomb squadron in 19 bombing missions over France, Belgium and Germany.
Then came June 6.
In the three weeks that followed the initial invasion, Bartley and his crew flew in 10 more missions, completing 30 total missions by June 22, 1944.
He returned to the U.S. and was sent to a redistribution center in Santa Monica before being transferred to Illinois for an officers' communications course. He was then sent back to California as an instructor pilot and communications officer for a 7th Air Force B-25 squadron training for the planned invasion of Japan. He was stationed at March Air Force Base near Riverside when the war ended in August 1945. He was discharged in October of that year but volunteered as a reserve.
Bartley began working for the Federal Aviation Agency and was recalled for the Korean War in late 1950. He remained stateside for the conflict, and worked in communications in Alaska and Oklahoma. The Air Force assigned him to the Air Force Institute of Technology at Oklahoma State University. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1957. He served actively for nine more years, and retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1966.
From 1958 to 1985, Bartley worked as an engineer and scientist for several missile, radar and aircraft corporations, including the Rome Air Development Center in New York, where he designed the radar for the Department of the Defense, Lockheed, Continental Electronics in Dallas, Hughes Aircraft Corp. in Los Angeles, the Aerospace Corp. in Sunnyvale and Datron World Communications in Simi Valley.
When Bartley left Santa Paula in 1941, he had no way of knowing that he wouldn't return to his hometown to live for more than 40 years. He married his high school sweetheart, Virginia, in 1943, and took her and their four children around the country as he moved for work. When he retired in 1985, the couple found a home again in Santa Paula - the place where it all began.
"Sometimes I think back and wonder if that was the way to do it," Bartley said. "I don't know, but being back in Santa Paula just felt right."
April 23, 2014