Howard Landis, a former fighter pilot who flew in 26 missions during World War II, died Monday as a result of cancer. He was 89.
Decades after his enlistment, Landis, of Plainview, would tell stories about his experiences abroad and let his children wear the combat medals he earned, family members said Wednesday.
"The most important aspect of my father's life was the military," said his daughter Jane Auspitz of Philadelphia. "Those adventures, to him, were phenomenal."
When the war broke out, Landis joined what was then the U.S. Army Air Forces. He was required to complete just 25 missions - one of which ended in a crash landing after enemy fire took out three of his four engines - but decided to volunteer for a 26th, Auspitz said.
Part of what motivated Landis was his Jewish heritage. Born as Howard Levine, Landis took pride in fighting Nazi Germany.
Though he later said he didn't know about Nazi concentration camps, he knew he faced extra danger as a Jew. To prevent the Nazis from capturing him, his superiors told him to keep a gun - to shoot himself in case he was shot down in Germany, Auspitz said.
His name change came upon leaving the military, when he was advised it would make job seeking easier. Landis eventually went into the printing business. In 1970, he started Oxford Lithograph, a printing shop in lower Manhattan.
"He was a very, very brilliant man," said Tony Fazio, a friend and business associate. "We were very creative in our planning . . . I respected him tremendously."
After years working four days a week in semiretirement, Landis left the business just last year and became a volunteer guide at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in East Garden City.
"From the day he walked in, everybody loved him," said Linda Maugeri, the museum's manager of volunteer services.
Landis is also survived by his wife of 37 years, Hannah Landis of Plainview; another daughter, Susan Arkin of Maitland, Fla.; his son, Andrew Landis of Simi Valley, Calif.; 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A funeral will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at Gutterman's, 8000 Jericho Tpke. in Woodbury, followed by a military burial at Mount Hebron Cemetery, 130-04 Horace Harding Expy. in Flushing.