Jan. 10, 2020

Stories of Sacrifice - POW/MIAs - SGT Leonard James McNeill Ep06

Stories of Sacrifice - POW/MIAs - SGT Leonard James McNeill Ep06

SGT Leonard James McNeill - was born 3 November 1917 in Fairview, Prince Edward Island, Canada to parents William and Margaret (Buchanan) McNeill. The family immigrated to Somerville, MA on 19 August 1923 and later SGT McNeill moved to Florida. 

In 1938 while living in Orlando, FL, Leonard met and married the love of his life, Melba Culbreth. He made a living for his family working as a soda clerk and bartender. Leonard and Melba had a daughter, a son, and a stepson.

With WW2 in full swing in the Pacific, SGT McNeill was drafted into the army on 17 November, 1943 entering the Army Air Corps and becoming a sergeant serving as tail gunner in the 881st Bombardment Squadron, 500th Bomb Group on a B-29 Superfortresses. His crew left California on 14 February 1945 for its posting at Saipan.

On 1 April 1945 SGT McNeill's plane was part of an experimental night precision bombing mission where 35 B-29s were sent to bomb the Mushashino Aircraft Factory at Tokyo. Flying at no more than 4,500 ft. and five minutes into the bomb-run, the bomber was hit by flak. Moments later the fuselage was hit between the rear crew compartment and the tail causing fires to spread throughout the plane. Pilot LT. Ed Law ordered the crew to bail with all ten of his crew parachuting out but pilot, Lt. Ed Law died at the controls when the B-29 exploded in the air. 

SGT McNeill was captured and sent to a Tokyo Military Prison. This prison was later accidentally bombed on 26 May 1945 by an allied bombing mission with fires engulfing the cellblocks. Escaping POWs were killed by Japanese guards and buried in a mass grave. These actions by the Japanese were a part of the Japanese War Crimes that were put on trial after the war. Currently SGT Leonard James McNeill is buried as an “Unknown” in an American Military Cemetery.

This is SGT McNeill’s story of Sacrifice for our Nation and his family’s quest to have him identified and brought home for an honorable burial under a headstone with his own name. 

For more information on the family’s quest for his Repatriation: https://www.facebook.com/Sgt.McNeill/

You can contact SGT McNeill’s nephew, Mike Krehl at: brickmasonindustries@gmail.com

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