Temple City Resident Shares Memories
Laurence Stevens is an ordinary guy who experienced extraordinary life experience and lived to tell about them. With the help of his granddaughter, Stacey, his story is now available for everyone to read in his book entitled, “It Only Takes One, Memoirs of a Tail Gunner.”
Larry was born in his parent’s home in Alhambra in 1924. He remembers all of the “open land, horses and skies so blue they were near to purple.” Imagine Atlantic Boulevard was only a dirt road lined with pepper trees. Larry said that “Atlantic Boulevard was first called “Wilson Boulevard” because it was the road leading to the Mt. Wilson Observatory.
Growing up, Larry had 4 siblings, Ernie, Mayme, Jim and Mary Lou. He worked with his dad who was a plaster contractor. As a young boy, Larry helped his dad plaster Holy Angels Church in Arcadia. When all of his high school friends were being drafted during WWII, Larry enlisted in the army and graduated early from Alhambra High. He reported for duty on May 10, 1943. He graduated from gunnery school at age 19 becoming part of the Army Air Corps. Tragically his older brother, Ernie, who had been in the army since 1941, was killed in action “spear-heading an infantry drive in Messina, Italy” in November 1943.
Larry and the crew of the “Full House,” the name of his plane, flew 34 successful missions. Then, the “Full House” with a new crew was shot down in Zeitz, Germany. Larry’s 35th mission was in a new plane called “Big Chief Illiniwek” which was a new B-17 G plane and its first mission. Larry said they were headed to Politz, Austria. Over Germany one of the engines malfunctioned and “for the first time on our tour, we had to abort.” According to Larry, “When our crew was in combat, there was a 1 in 5 or 20 in 100 chance of survival and a 50-50 chance after the 15th mission.” Larry was one of the lucky ones and as he said, “Our guardian angel road with us all the way.” Many articles have been written about Larry. He was a highly decorated member of the 412th Bombardment Squadron and the 95th Bombardment Group. At the age of 20, Sgt. Larry Stevens received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his “extraordinary achievement.”
Larry was discharged from the service on October 1, 1945. Upon returning home, Larry went back to work for his father’s business doing lathe and plaster. This is where Larry met the love of his life, Henrietta Ochoa, and in 1950 they were married. Once his dad retired in 1954, Larry joined the Alhambra Fire Department in 1955. In 1960, Larry and his family moved to Temple City. Larry served as Alhambra Fire Captain for 18 years and retired in 1986 with a total of 31 years of fire service. Larry and Henrietta raised 5 children: Melinda, Lawrence Ernest, Nancy, Candyce and Roger and they have 8 grandchildren. They are a close family and very proud of their children and grandchildren. This August 19th, Larry and Henrietta will be happily celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary! Larry still enjoys “attending B-17 meetings in Long Beach as well as spending time with his children and grandchildren.”
For more information about Larry’s book, visit: www.amazon.com.