Today is May 29, 2024 ()

Buddy Sommer

  Marcel “Buddy” Sommer was born November 28, 1921, above the Sommer’s Furniture Store at 1208 E. Adams St. in downtown Brownsville. He was one of seven children (four girls and three boys) of Oscar and Laura Sommer. The family was very involved with Temple Beth-El.
Buddy graduated from Brownsville High School and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. His two brothers and two brothers-in-law also enlisted in the military. Laura and Oscar Sommer had five boys who had gone to war in WWII.
After training, Buddy Sommer was assigned to the 8 th Army Air Force whose mission was to fly B-17 bombers from their airfield in England to bomb German military factories. The missions were very dangerous.
He served as Technical Sargent in the European Theatre as a Radio Operator, Mechanic, and Aerial Gunner in his B-17 Squadron’s lead aircraft. He flew on bombing missions over
enemy territory in Normandy, Northern France, and Germany during a time when many of his friend’s airplanes were shot down. Buddy Sommer completed twenty-five missions; the maximum allowed. Few airmen survived that many missions. The 8 th Army Air Force lost 26,000 soldiers to enemy fire, more than all the US Marines killed in all their battles during WWII.
The following announcement was in the Brownsville Herald newspaper on December 13,1944:
Tech. Sgt. Marcel W Sommer, 23, of Brownsville has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while serving as radio operator gunner on an 8 th
Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress on many high-altitude bombing attacks on targets within Nazi Germany. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Sommer of 1208 Adams Street. A graduate
of Brownsville High School, he joined the AAF in March 1940. Sgt. Sommer also holds the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf clusters. He has participated in attacks on enemy installations in Berlin, Cologne, Leipzig, Kassel, and Mannheim. “The tiger tank factory at Cologne.” said Sergeant Sommer, “is the one I shall always remember. Flak ripped through the nose and tore it off. After bombs away, we ran home. No one was injured.” The DFC citation stated in part, “The heroic determination and disregard of personal safety displayed by Sergeant Sommer on
all these occasions reflect the highest credit upon himself and the Military Forces of the United States.” Sgt. Sommer’s group is a unit of the Third Bombardment Division, cited by the
President for its now historic England-Africa shuttle bombing of Messerschmitt plants at Regensburg, Germany, in August 1943.
Buddy’s cousin, Philip Leonard, told me this: “Buddy was the navigator-radio operator on a B-17 on a bombing run to take out the tiger tank factory in Cologne, Germany. Flak hit the
front of the airplane and tore the nose off. No one was killed but the controls to fly the airplane were destroyed. Buddy went to the back seat and used the bombardier controls to navigate the
airplane back to England. Buddy’s action saved the airplane and its crew.” Philip continued; “Officers were the usual recipients of a Distinguished Flying Cross. Buddy, a Sergeant, was an
exception. After his twenty-five bomber missions, Buddy went on to fly five more missions over the Atlantic Ocean on anti-submarine patrol.”
After the war, Buddy worked at Sommer’s Furniture in charge of collections. Many customers were able to have furniture in their homes because of the liberal credit terms of Sommer’s Furniture Store.

Buddy would drive to their homes to collect a few dollars as account payments. His route included many parts of Brownsville and Port Isabel. The collection cards he carried were stacked four to five inches thick wrapped in large rubber bands, a very old-school collection method. He made many friends along his collection route. Later he became the head of the furniture store and was a good steward at taking care of his employees and always paid for their medical bills when they were ill.
As a Mason of the Brownsville Masonic Lodge #81, he participated in many philanthropic projects for the local community. He led the Shiners and Masons in transporting
children to medical facilities for treatment. Buddy was a Mason for sixty-three years and officiated at the Masonic ceremony that inducted his father, Oscar, into the Lodge.
Buddy was survived by his wife, Sonnie, who has since passed away. Buddy met Soundra “Sonnie” Joan Herbert when she and her father came to visit her Uncle Leonard Leonard who was married to Buddy’s sister, Ray. Sonnie grew up in Philadelphia and on the visit to Brownsville during Charro Days she spent the night at Buddy’s sister Shirley’s house. The next morning, Sonnie met Buddy at the kitchen table during breakfast. They were married in 1950 at Temple Beth-El in Brownsville. Therefore, Sonnie’s aunt and uncle became her sister and brother-in-law. 

After they were married, Buddy was changing wallets and showed Sonnie a photo he kept of his sister Ray, her son, and an unknown little girl. He asked if she could identify the girl.
Sonnie said that was her in the photo taken in Philadelphia when she was 8 years old. Buddy told Sonnie, “I sat on you in my wallet all through the war.”
Buddy was an avid fisherman and fished the surf at Boca Chica beach, the mouth of the Rio Grande River and South Padre Island. Buddy and his sons, Danny, Mitchell, and Stephen would get up at 4AM and head to the fishing spots. They would cook and eat breakfast while fishing. Buddy provided fish to his mother, Laura, for her famous Gefilte Fish.
Buddy planted fruit trees at the store and at his home. He was a hard worker and of the utmost high character and eager to help other people. Buddy and Sonnie and the rest of the
family were active members of Temple Beth-El.
Marcel “Buddy” Sommer died February 26, 2016. He is the most highly decorated veteran in the Hebrew Cemetery. Buddy is buried next to Sonnie in the Hebrew Cemetery near his parents and other family member .