Orphaned at age 5, Jack Leroy Tueller, after the war, went on to play first chair trumpet at BYU. This is a remarkable story from Jack’s military experience...
Jack Leroy Tueller was a World War II fighter pilot, flying a thousand feet above German tanks he and his fellow pilots were sent to blow up, when he spotted the patches of bright red, blue and yellow atop the drab gray-green tank that was his target.
"It was a French mother, trying to use her body to cover her three children," Tueller, of Bountiful, recalls more than six decades later. "They were dressed in bright colors, so we would see them. They were human shields. The Germans knew American boys would not fire on innocents. There were mothers and children secured on every tank. There were 16 of us, and none of us fired."
Tueller and his men pulled away, and he radioed the situation to his superiors. The gut-wrenching reply crackled back: Destroying the tanks was paramount, his superior said. The civilians were expendable.
Hearts pounding, the men followed orders.
"I've lived with that for 65 years, what 50-caliber machine guns did to those civilians," said Tueller, 89, his voice cracking. "I grew up that day. I realized that in every war, innocent civilians are sacrificed by both sides. In killing evil, sometimes the innocents go down with the guilty. Wars are that way. In Afghanistan today, where I have a son serving, mothers are teaching children to carry bombs on their backs. War is like that."
Tueller and his fellow airmen were devastated by what their mission forced them to do.
"We got back to the airstrip, on Omaha Beach, and we were all stressed out," he recalled. "I was the only nondrinker of all the pilots. I got rid of my stress with music. It was therapeutic. It does the same thing as alcohol, but with no hangover."
Tueller pulled out his trumpet, a frequent companion, and prepared to play. A friend warned him that trumpet music carried a long distance, and was sure to alert a nearby sniper who had been firing on the camp. The music would make Tueller a target.
So Tueller chose a German love song, "Lili Marlene," that both he and the sniper could enjoy. No shots were fired.
The next day, the sniper was among the prisoners captured. The 19-year-old German asked who it was that had played the beautiful song. Tueller, just a few years older than the sniper, drove down to the beach.
"He was scared and young, just like I was," Tueller recalled. "The music that soothed my spirit soothed his, too. He offered his hand, and I shook it."
Tueller, a retired engineer who plans never to retire from trumpet playing, said one of his favorites is Charlie Chaplin's "Smile."
"Smile though your heart is aching
"Smile even though it's breaking.
"When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by."
And he has. His father left when he was young, and his mother died a few years later. An aunt took the boy in, and she had a trumpet. Over time, Tueller taught himself music and optimism. He still practices both.
"You have to look forward to tomorrow and forget the past, which is a learning road," he said. "Anger, resentment and grudges only hurt the person holding them. Life is sweet, and if a road is hard, you appreciate the view more when you get to the top of that mountain. I'm in good health, and when I go, my plan is to hit a high C and fall right into the grave."
|Liveleak on Facebook|