Levi Dillon – Top Turret Gunner

Serial# 33090142: Dillon, Leviticus G. – Flight Engineer and Top Turret Gunner.

Levicticus ‘Levi’ Dillon was born on July 15th 1919 in Gills Creek, Franklin County, Virginia. His parents, Gilliam and Judy moved to Roanoake when he was six, taking with them their children Avie, Ida, John and Ruby along with Levi. Graduating from William Fleming High School in Roanoake, he enlisted in the Air Force on September 8th 1941 in the Air Corps.

Dillon trained on B-17s at MacDill with the 91st Bomb Group, then moved to Walla Walla. Private Dillon was cleared for combat duty as an Air Engineer and Air Gunner on May 16 1942 and was promoted to Staff Sergeant on August 1st. Dillon crossed the Atlantic aboard the Memphis Belle and flew four out of the first five combat missions.

Levi Dillon was also the first of the Memphis Belle crew to be wounded – but that does not appear on the official record.  It was on the third mission – November 9th 1942 – to St Nazaire.

He recalled: ‘A German machine gun bullet came right through the top turret where I was and hit my right thigh. It felt like a hot poker and set my flying suit on fire. Lieutenant Verinis came back and beat the fire out. Then he got the first-aid kit, cut my suit open, and put a bandage on the wound to stop the bleeding. It wasn’t deep. Just a little flesh wound.

When we got back and landed, they told me to go to the hospital and get it dressed but I saw the liberty bus loading up and I didn’t want to miss liberty so I jumped on the bus.

Later that night, when I was sitting in a bar, drinking beer, somebody looked at my leg and said, ‘Hey, man, you’re bleeding!’ I looked and, sure enough, blood was trickling down my leg. So I went to a Red Cross first-aid station there in Cambridge. I found out that the girl who dressed wounds was Adele Astaire, sister of Fred Astaire [the Hollywood film star].It wasn’t bad and I never reported it’

After the December 20th 1942 mission, his name dissappears from the crew list – what happened? ‘A bunch of us had been out on liberty and we were coming back to the base when there was a little fracas at the gate. A lieutenant said some enlisted man had grabbed him and ripped his jacket. When they brought some of us back down there for identification, the lieutenant pointed at me and said I did it. I hadn’t been close to him, and later found out who did it, but I never snitched’.

Dillon was demoted and transferred to the 306th Bomb Group where he soon got his rank back.­