LIVERMORE FALLS — “I knew Paul Lees’ father,” Bernard Gray said. “His father John and I were friendly farmers.”

Paul Lees in his Livermore Falls High School senior photo. 1943 Livermore Falls High School yearbook

Paul Lees graduated from Livermore High School in 1943. By the end of that year, he had enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was preparing to serve his country in Europe during World War II.

Sometime during his overseas assignment, Paul wrote his initials on the walls of a convalescent home in Worcestershire, England. Those initials were uncovered during recent renovations. The owner, Kate Berkley, reached out to readers seeking information about the owner of the initials.

Gray, who lives in Livermore, remembers Paul and recalled his military service.

“Paul did 25 missions over Germany as a waist gunner with the 8th Air Force,” Gray said.

Those missions earned Paul the Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, according to military records. He also received three bronze battle stars on his European Theater Ribbon.

The Air Medal is awarded to U.S. military and civilian personnel for single acts of heroism or meritorious achievements while participating in aerial flight. Each Oak Leaf Cluster is awarded for subsequent achievements. Each of the bronze battle stars indicated participation in a specific battle, engagement or offensive.

According to the Army Air Corps Museum, the primary duty of a waist gunner was to defend the aircraft against the enemy.

“Waist gunners were responsible for shooting down German fighter planes,” Gray said.

These military men were exposed to freezing temperatures because they would man the weapons from an open aircraft door, he said.

Waist gunners were also in a position to get a good look at the enemy, often making eye contact with them before firing, he said.

“The war affected Paul,” Gray said. “He came back mentally changed. A lot of men did. When he returned from the war, his father took him to Togus VA. When I left the area in 1952, Paul was still living at Togus.”

Llewellyn Lyman of Livermore also remembers Paul. Just before Paul was discharged from the military, Lyman’s family moved from Strickland to within a quarter-mile of the Lees’ farm.

“As a boy, I would help (his father) John bring in hay for the cattle on their farm,” Lyman said. “I remember when (Paul) came home. As I remember, he didn’t stay around long. I don’t know if he went to college or ever married.”

It seems Paul did not marry or have a family. He died in New York on July 1, 1995.

“He was living at the VA in Bath, New York, when he died,” Gray said. “I remember he wrote his own obituary and it said he didn’t have any known relatives.”

Paul is buried in the Bath National Cemetery, fitting for a war hero who seemed to have battled a war far longer than it raged.

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