OGDEN — When Roger and Eleanor Bush went on their first date, back in the mid-1940s, Roger was so enamored, he proposed.
Knowing that her future husband would soon be headed off to the fight in World War II, Eleanor told him she wouldn’t agree to it until he finished up his stint in Europe and returned home safely from the war.
After a serious detour, the reunion eventually came to pass and the couple was married for more than 70 years. They didn’t know it on the night their courtship began, but Roger’s war service with the Army Air Corps nearly ruined his end of the deal.
Some time in October of 1944, Roger’s plane was shot down by German forces as it flew over France. According to his granddaughter, Edith Hornsby, he suffered shrapnel wounds and “tumbled out of his airplane with machine guns pointed at his face.”
Though he survived the crash, he wasn’t able to escape the Nazis. They took him as a prisoner of war for nearly two months.
“We had no idea what happened to him,” Eleanor said. “And guess what, the government didn’t either.”
Shortly after his plane went down, Roger’s mother, Doris Bodley received a notification from the Army that he was missing in action.
“That’s all we knew — he was missing,” Eleanor said, the emotion rising in her voice. “It was the most horrible feeling ever.”
She couldn’t help but assume the worst, and the weeks following the MIA notification were torment. But one night, while baby-sitting one of her neighbor’s children, she got a reprieve.
“I was just tending a couple of the kids at my neighbor’s house, listening to the radio and flipping through the newspaper, the Standard-Examiner,” Eleanor said. “Then I saw this little, tiny column about a half-inch big that said some prisoners had been released (in France).”
When she saw the words “Roger Bush, of Ogden, Utah,” listed among those freed, she jumped out of her chair.
“I left those kids as soon as I read it and ran home to tell my mother,” she said.
Roger’s family wasn’t notified until well after the news brief came out, according to Eleanor.
“It took quite a while for them to tell his mother,” she said.
He didn’t return to Utah for several months.
Another news brief from the Feb. 19, 1945, edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner documented Roger’s return to Utah:
“Sergeant Roger E. Bush, 20, son of Doris E. Bodley, 2820 Wall, has arrived in Ogden from a German prison camp in France,” the brief reads. “He was an exchange prisoner and returned to the U.S. on a plane.”
Roger Bush died Jan. 4, 2016.
Last weekend, the family held a special memorial service at the Ogden VFW Post 1481, at 907 W. 12th St.
Hornsby said the family planned to play an old newsreel that was taken of her grandfather’s prisoner exchange from Nov. 29, 1944. The footage was given to the family anonymously. They also displayed the Purple Heart that Roger earned and other memorabilia from his time in Europe and in the Air Corps.
Both Eleanor and Hornsby said Roger never spoke much about his time in the Nazi POW camp. Hornsby can recall only one story her grandfather ever told her about it.
“He told me that they used to keep him in a pit and a couple of times a day, they poured soup down to them,” Hornsby said. “He was always so hungry and he said one day, the soup they gave him had worms in it and he was so happy for those worms, because it meant more nourishment. I remember saying, ’Oh grandpa, that’s so gross, how could you eat worms?’ But that tells you how rough it was.”
The family said the memorial will allow them to honor a humble patriarch who never would have participated in such a thing while he was alive.
“He was just a great man,” Hornsby said. “He was funny, intelligent. He loved cracking jokes, but he was also very private and he never would have gone for this (service) when he was alive, but we feel like we need to honor him now and remember all that he did for our country.”
Bush would have turned 91 on Jan. 21.