Parry began his active duty in the same way as many soldiers, spending 13 weeks in infantry training. During each of those 13 weeks, a test was administered on Fridays to determine which of the soldiers had the intellectual ability to earn a position flying on a military plane. At the end of his training, Parry was pulled aside and told that he could hold any position of his choice on board a plane, including a pilot. Because airsickness was a problem for him and a pilot position would have required him to survey his surroundings while thousands of feet off the ground, he opted to enroll in navigator training.
As a navigator during World War II, Parry flew 31 missions -- each 16 to 18 hours, spanning from March 11, 1945, through Aug. 29, 1945. His last flight was a survey mission involving only his plane flying 500 feet above the USS Missouri -- a few days before the peace agreement with Japan was signed on board that same ship in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.
Aside from his last flight, Parry’s missions involved formations of 24 to 667 planes, bombing urban areas, airfields, harbors, naval fuel sites, naval arsenals, air factories and oil refineries with various types of bombs, including incendiary, high explosives and mines.
When asked which of the 31 missions he remembers well, Parry was quick to answer.
“I have them all in my head,” he said.
While Parry remembers all of his missions, he did recount three times when he realized he had escaped near-death experiences.
Narrow escape No. 1
Parry’s first brush with death came on only his second mission. During the flight, the plane made three target runs, burning large amounts of fuel.
Knowing fuel consumption was an issue, Parry asked “Red,” the engineer, if the plane had enough fuel when they were eight hours away from their destination, four hours away from their destination, and the last time when they were two hours out. On the first two inquiries, Red had an affirmative response, but on the final ask, the engineer did not answer, and Parry looked to see him sobbing. The plane was out of fuel due to an incorrect calculation and the engineer, rather than answer Parry’s final query, went straight to the cockpit to report the plane’s dire straits.
The pilot would make a quick landing at a closer destination, not their normal landing site.
“Finally, we got as far as Saipan, and we tried landing. When we went down all four fans (engines) went out and we got a fast landing,” said Parry. “The fans stopped when we hit the runway (indicating the plane had absolutely no gas left to operate).”
Luck of the draw and escape No. 2