June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion to liberate France from the Nazis during World War II. As a follow-up mission to D-Day, one young Georgia flyer risked everything to do his part. He never returned.
Now, some of the mystery of what happened to 2nd Lt. Ben Hodges of Reynolds, Georgia has lifted, thanks to another remarkable young Georgian.
June 20, 1944: The allies were working hard to capitalize on gains made since D-Day. Lt. Hodges may have been thinking about the terrible weather, the fact that he had less than 100 hours flight time, or about his young wife back in the states.
Ben Smart just graduated at the top of his class from Rockdale County High School. He’s working hard so one day he can fly for the Navy.
Even across the decades, Smart told GPB’s “On the Story” he can understand that anxiety.
“It’d be a challenge,” said Smart. “And I can’t stand here and tell you I would do it without feeling any second thoughts.”
Smart took a challenge last summer, sponsored by Albert H. Small, a D-Day veteran and philanthropist who urged young people to do more than just read about history. Smart agreed to really get to know Lt. Hodges, with the help of his teacher, Kenny Tucker of RCHS.