At 91, he can still recall key details encompassing the moments of his WW II service. “The sky is unmerciful, I don’t know how they missed us” recalls Bandy, as bombs exploded all around him. At the age of 18, Peter C. Bandy of Philadelphia was drafted into WW II. Less than a year later, he found himself a (center/kneeling) waist gunner flying bombing missions over Germany. Six of those missions were on board the famed B-17 plane, the “Thunderbird”. Today a mural of that famous plane greets visitors at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
A first generation Greek-American, he was born in West Philadelphia and graduated from Overbrook h.s., the same school acclaimed actor Will Smith attended years later. Bandy’s family immigrated from Berat Albania, at the turn of the 20th century and settled first into Greektown. In Greektown, Bandy worked in his father store, the Sugar bowl on 8th and race. A popular stop in the community, it was the first Greek Sweet shop in the area.
Bandy has lived a life many would only know in movies and books. Long before Hollywood made a film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Bandy recalls in his interview, hearing the voices of colored pilots who were flying above and below his B-17 after his plane had been hit. “They were instrumental in getting us back into friendly territory,” says Bandy.
Most airmen served between 5 and 7 missions. The survival percentage beyond that without being shot down, killed or wounded was short lived. Bandy served 35 missions with the 303 bomb group in the 8th Air Force.
He was married just before the war ended in Utah, where he met his future wife at a Greek-sponsored USO dance. They raised four kids and he worked in the restaurant business.