Lee “Shorty” Gordon
1922 – November 14, 2006
In World War II, Lee Gordon served as a ball turret gunner with the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 305th Bomb Group. Gunners had to be small in those days, and “Shorty” was the perfect size. But what he lacked in height he made up for in heart.
On February 26, 1943, while on a major bombing mission over Wilhelmshaven, Germany, enemy fire brought down his B-17. He parachuted to safety from 24,000 feet, but German troops quickly captured him. Immediately after his imprisonment at Stalag 7A in Moosburg, Germany, Gordon began looking for a way to escape.
His first two attempts failed, including one in which he tried to peddle a bicycle to freedom. Gordon finally succeeded on October 13, 1943. He traded identification tags with an Australian prisoner so he could gain access to an outdoor work area. After hiding in a bathroom stall until dark, he jumped a fence and walked away. Riding on freight trains, he eventually made his way to France. He entered a restaurant, approached a waitress, and proclaimed, “I’m an American.” The waitress summoned members of the French Resistance who helped get Gordon to England. On February 27, 1944, one year after his capture, Gordon arrived was reunited with the Allied forces and became the first American prisoner to successfully escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp.
Shorty Gordon received the Silver Star for his heroics. After a brief stint as a civilian businessman, he rejoined the military and served as a flight engineer in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He died in 2006 at the age of eighty-four.
Shorty Gordon—an American Hero—is proof that heroes come in all sizes.