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Col. Steve Houser « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

Col. Steve Houser

Hometown: Indian Trail, NC
Branch of Service: Air Force, Eighth Air Force, 95th Bomb Group
Location of Service: Europe

By Stephen L. Houser, Jr.

In 1940, Stephen L. Houser’s teaching job at Indian Trail, NC, was interrupted as the United States went to war. Houser left to become a flight instructor for the United States Army Air Force. His job was to instruct would-be pilots who were needed in the war effort. Flight schools were in Pampa, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, and Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

He eventually received orders to go to England and be a part of the Eighth Air Force, 95th Bomb Group, which was located in Horham, England. Houser was often lead pilot of large formations of B-17 Flying Fortresses in bombing missions over Germany. Some of the formations consisted of as many as 2,000 bombers flying at a time. With the unanimous vote of his nine-member crew, they named his plane the “Stacie Special” after his new wife from Indian Trail. The crew wore leather jackets with “Stacie Special” printed on the back.

Twenty bombing missions were the “magic” number to obtain, because one could go home after reaching that amount, so the pilots and crew looked forward to reaching that goal knowing that the prospects were not good if they continued. A US bomber pilot over Germany had a one in three chance of surviving a tour of duty. The life expectancy of a bomber crew was fifteen missions. (Source: Wings of Morning by Thomas Childers).

Captain Houser led his crew on 35 missions and returned without losing a crewmember. Once, a shell burst through the space between Houser and his co-pilot. One time he had to land his airplane on its belly since his landing gear was not working. Another B-17 in his group had three of its four engines shot out and the pilot told Houser to go on back without him. However, Houser slowed down, pulled in close to the ailing airplane and flew along side this crippled plane to England. Houser participated in the famed “Shuttle Bombing Mission” which involved many bombers flying a mission from England to Russia and back. For his bravery, Capt. Houser received many medals of honor, including the European Theater of Operations Medal with Four Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and two Air Medals with Four Clusters. Knowing that he had tempted fate enough, the now Major Houser returned to the United States and to Indian Trail. He resumed working as an educator, noting that education was one of the honorable professions that would allow him to serve others. The now Colonel Houser served as commander of the USAF Reserves om Charlotte.

Ironically, several years ago, Nelson Lemmond, formerly of Indian Trail, was visiting the Aircraft Museum at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. A volunteer interpreter there told Nelson of the heroics of one of the B-17 pilots. He told Nelson that pilot was Major Steve Houser. How shocked the man must have been when Nelson told him that Houser lived through the woods from Lemmond’s boyhood home in Indian Trail.