Leon Gumley “died” in John Wayne’s arms as they fought their way up Mount Suribachi in the closing minutes of the 1949 World War II movie “Sands of Iwo Jima.” He played Marine Private Sid Stein and Wayne was Sgt. John Striker, the hero, who was also killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet during the closing scene of the movie.
In reality, Gumley was a glider pilot during the Second World War who probably saved his own life, he maintains, by cracking up two planes while learning to fly in Texas 65 years ago. He never made it into battle with his glider. He stayed stateside until late in the war when gliders were of no more use to the invading Allied forces. At that point he switched and became a gunnery officer on a B-29 “Super Fortress” and was in training in Fort Myers when the war ended.
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