Voices of Veterans: Private First Class Buster Lee Bailey shares his story of service in the US Army Air Force

AUSTIN Texas Land Commissioner and Veterans Land Board (VLB) Chairwoman Dawn Buckingham, M.D., is proud to introduce the next installment of the series highlighting the VLB’s Voices of Veterans oral history program. In this episode, we hear the story of Private First Class (PFC) Buster Lee Bailey.

Bailey was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1946 and attended boot camp at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. After training to become a radio operator, he was shipped out to Hawaii.

He would track the flight of distressed planes to ensure they arrived at their intended bays safely. On July 8, 1947, he was in a C-46 transport plane when an accident occurred during take-off on Palmyra Island, about 100 miles south of Hawaii.

“The engine threw the propellers, and they came through the plane, and one of them, if it had been six inches to one side, it’d have missed me; six inches to the other side, it’d have killed me.”

Bailey lost his right hand and right leg in the crash. He only became emotional when discussing his mother finding out about the accident.

When asked what message he would like to leave for future generations, he said, “Watch out,” and began to laugh, showing a bit of the attitude that helped him through a terrible ordeal. Afterward, he said earnestly, “Keep America free, strong, and free.”

Click here to listen to PRC Buster Lee Bailey tell his story.