Headstone Walk – Honoring Our Veterans

Bernard Gilbert Tousey – World War II

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Bernard Gilbert Tousey

Bernard Tousey was always called Mick and was born in Suring, Wisconsin on December 9, 1919; the fifth of John and Blanche Tousey’s nine children. Bernard moved to a dairy farm on the Stockbridge Reservation in 1938.

After the war he was a full-time farmer on that same land and eventually owned and operated the farmstead himself–and later with the help of his nephew, Lee Davids. Lee Davids operates the farm today. BernardI was never fortunate enough to be married, but comes from a close-knit family including several nieces and nephews that were raised like they were Bernard’s.

In 1941 Bernard knew war was likely coming. On September 4, 1941, he enlisted and reported for bootcamp and was assessed for specialized training. The army must have recognized that farm boys, out of necessity, learn to fix and repurpose just about everything mechanical. Bernard was assigned to the Army Air Corp and later sent to airplane technician school in Texas. While there in December 1941, the US declared war against Germany. After becoming a qualified mechanic, he was shipped overseas to the European Theater of Operation on August 31 1942.

The command sent me to England to an 8 Airforce base in Hardwick, England which was the home of the 93rd Bombardment Group. Bernard worked exclusively on B-24 Liberators. He was given seven B24 bombers as a crew chief and I knew their every detail both inside and out. He was fortunate to have technicians under my command who specialized in repairs of electronics, engines and fuselage so they could quickly and expertly return damaged bombers back to service. The expected turnaround time was the period after the pilot brought the plane in and the time he left with his squadron before dawn the next morning. Many of these planes were severely damaged. It was their hope that hits were limited to fuselage that could be repaired with aluminum airframe patch work. The worst of it was when electrical systems took enemy fire and intricate systems were damaged or torn out. It could take several men all day and night surgically splicing wires back together. Fixing or replacing a damaged engine was especially labor and time intensive.

Nevertheless, that plane was expected to be ready to fly by 4 am the next morning and no one wanted to hear excuses. We always got it done. Bernard received a bronze star for never having one of his planes malfunctions after being repaired.

The flight crews were especially admired for their bravery as their losses were staggering. In the early war they flew deep into enemy territory to drop their heavy bombs without sufficient fighter escorts. That remained true until the deployment of the P51 Mustangs later in the war. For those of us on the ground it was always devastating to see that a plane hadn’t come back. They quickly checked with other pilots to learn whether they saw parachutes, but it was more likely a lost cause. They were genuinely a band of brothers who relied heavily on one another to do our jobs the right way the first time because our comrades, our country and the allies depended on us to perform a perfect hand in glove operation to prevent loss of life and to take the greatest tactical advantages against the enemy. For those of our brethren whose lives were lost, the void they left was never filled.

While flight crews saw most of the action, ground crews had their own perils. They were so sleep deprived out of absolute necessity that resulting harm increased as the war effort intensified. With only a day to repair and replace severe damage caused by offensive enemy fighter planes, it became impossible to do anything more than grab short periods of down time. They started experiencing technicians falling from planes, walk into whirling propellers, and a host of other casualty causing errors.

Ground operations were frequently under attack. It wasn’t unusual to encounter 50 caliber enemy strafing. Bernard recalled the first time he decided to fly with the crew as a qualified as a flight engineer. It was the most terrifying experience Bernard had known up to that time.

The Battles and campaigns in which he was directly involved include: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, Central Europe, Ploesti, Egypt-Libya, Air Offensive Europe, Tunisia, Sicily and Naples-Foggia.

VE Day was May 8, 1945. On May 24, 1945, and Bernard returned to the United States He was honorably discharged on September 18, 1945, holding a non-commissioned officer rank of Master Sargent. He received several commendations for my service, but the most meaningful was the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism accomplishing its mission in action against an armed enemy under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions above other units participating in the same campaign.

After the war Bernard Tousey returned home on the farm in Bowler and I became a licensed pilot and owned a plane for several years.Among several community involvements, Bernard served as the Stockbridge Tribal Chairman and I was a long-term member of the Bowler School Board. Eventually, he retired and built my own log home far back in the solitude of the woods on the Red River. He was always a proud combat veteran.  Bernard’s tribe has militarily served on the side of Americans all the way back to King Phillips War and it should be noted that he’s a descendant of American Revolution Patriots.