Mr. Edward Pugliesi started teaching at Henry Ford in 1962. He taught at Ford for many years after that. I remember taking an Aviation Private Pilot night school class with him in 1969 or 70. Mr. Pugliesi has also been known to attend the annual Summer Blast party held each year in Hines Park. And he has also buzzed the party in his Cessna 150. Keep em flyin Mr. P. (Don Grillo, Class of 1972)
Thanks to Daniel Vanneste (’69) for sending in this article.
By Linda Ann Chomin
"It was all of us."
Edward Pugliesi wants to make it clear he wasn’t alone when Allied forces invaded France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Nearly three million troops from 12 nations, including the United States, fought in German-occupied Western Europe during the Normandy Invasion that lasted until June 30 that year. By nightfall June 6, 9,000 Allied troops were dead.
"The dead ones are the story," said Pugliesi, 87. "Cemeteries all over Europe are filled with those who died. Tell a little about them."
Pugliesi was just a scared 19-year-old kid that day. He had passed the Civilian Pilot Training Program established in 1938 by the U.S. government in preparation for the imminent war. Upon successful completion, Pugliesi became a member of the Army Air Corps and served as a glider pilot from 1942-45.
A humble man, Pugliesi sits on the couch of his Livonia home thumbing through the list of glider pilots killed in action. The National World War II Glider Pilots Association published the newsletter. According to the organization, approximately 6,000 were trained as glider pilots and earned their wings. Only about 500 dues-paying men remain, due to ages that range from 83 to 95.
‘THE BODY PREPARES FOR DEATH’
"We were all scared. We weren’t going to a picnic," Pugliesi said. "France was all German territory and they prepared for an invasion. You could feel the adrenaline. The body prepares for death and danger."
Allied forces prepared for months as well. Glider planes were towed into the air and flew without engines to sneak up on the enemy. Primarily used in World War II, the aircraft was eventually replaced by the helicopter. Pugliesi flew a CG4A with an 83-foot wingspan.
"They told us you’re going to go there and they’ll try to kill you and you’re going to try to kill them," Pugliesi said. "We left a lot of guys there."
Men died as well in glider pilot training and are listed as Died in the Line of Duty by the Glider Pilots Association.
"It was very dangerous to learn to land an aircraft without an engine," Pugliesi said. "Many froze without an instructor (on board). It was very difficult."
Pugliesi was one of the lucky ones. He returned home to earn a bachelor of science and master of education and start doctoral studies under the G.I. Bill of Rights at Wayne University, as it was then known. He taught industrial arts in Detroit Public Schools for 33 years before retiring and eventually finished his doctorate in computer sciences.
Never one to sit idle, Pugliesi worked for another 18 years as an exhibit designer for Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. All the while, he continued flying. Twice a week, Pugliesi is still behind the controls of his Cessna single-engine plane, although for shorter distances these days.
"As a kid I liked to look up and see an airplane, but it was out of reach to become a pilot unless wealthy or military. Others, we could just dream," said Pugliesi, whose father was an Italian immigrant. "I thought flying was like a magic carpet. A honeymoon can wear off, but there isn’t a time just before takeoff that I don’t get butterflies. Are all these nuts and bolts going to get off the ground?"
When not in the sky, Pugliesi is in front of one of his three computers working on writing projects that lean to the scientific. He also tutors those looking to learn computer programs like Excel and AutoCAD. Pugliesi completed eight semesters of drafting in junior high and then at Cass Tech.
His Livonia home is filled with displays of blowtorches and model sailing ships. He made two of the lamps from tools, linkages and machine parts.
One of his favorite pastimes is target shooting with son Gregory, of Westland. Pugliesi has three children, including Julie of Pinconning and David of Westland. Three children call him granddad and one great-granddad.
"He’s my hero," said Phyllis Bush, who’s shared Pugliesi’s life for the last 30 years after his wife died.
His abstract drawings and Bush’s oil paintings decorate the house.
"I’d rather not be looked at as a hero," Pugliesi said. "We left several thousands of them in the cemeteries. Let’s not forget them."