By Bill Hozy
Imagine flying a Spitfire plane at low altitude over enemy territory without a gun and without wingmen to protect you from ground fire. This was my father’s service in World War II as he shot photos of enemy military and industrial infrastructure.
George Hozy was born on October 26, 1921, on a Scarborough farm where Markham Road and Progress Avenue intersect. His father, Wasyl, grew potatoes and other cash crops on the land that is now home to Centennial College.
After graduating from Agincourt high school in 1939, Dad joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, preferring service in the air to that on land or sea. But that didn’t stop the army from sending a conscription notice for Dad long after he shipped overseas with the RCAF. Guess they didn’t cross-reference military databases in those days.
At Toronto’s Downsview air base, Flight Officer Hozy trained on fighter planes and, after earning his wings, was assigned as a trainer himself. He recalled once that he’d take a new recruit up for his first flight, then invert the plane so he was flying upside down at low altitude. If the recruit lost his lunch, then maybe ground crew was a better vocation.
In 1942, Dad was assigned overseas duty, but not before flying a Spitfire low over his parents’ Scarborough farm, waving his wings. My grandmother, Donia, later let him know her displeasure with his stunt, but his parents were both very proud of his service.
Flight Officer Hozy was posted to allied air bases in England with the City of Toronto 400 Squadron, then on to the continent as allied forces advanced. Other members of the squadron included author General Richard Rohmer and character actor Larry Mann.
Though Dad flew a Spitfire, his plane wasn’t armed. The wings held high-resolution cameras that shot reconnaissance film. The pictures were then analyzed and mapped so bombers could be sent in to destroy Hitler’s war factories. The runs were risky but enemy fire didn’t get him. Dad did encounter friendly fire once when an allied fighter mistook his plane’s lack of markings for enemy aircraft. Good thing his radio worked that day.
Flight Officer Hozy and another reconnaissance pilot were recognized in a Toronto Star report during the war for their bravery under fire in mapping out large factories in the Ruhr Valley of Germany. The plants were later destroyed to help grind the Wehrmacht to a halt.
After Germany surrendered, Dad, now a Flight Lieutenant, went home on leave in the summer of 1945, awaiting deployment to the continuing Japanese conflict. But just days before his August wedding, the Japanese surrendered and Dad’s war was over. He liked to joke, “Once they knew I was coming, the Japanese had no choice but to surrender!”
Just one of an entire generation of Canadians who stood tall when it counted most, George Hozy went on to open several Scarborough businesses and to raise three children with his wife Pauline. Sadly, he lost a fight with cancer in 1984 at the age of 62. By his wishes, Dad’s ashes are spread at the beloved valley where he grew up. An Ad Astra stone at CFB Trenton memorializes his service. Ad Astra, the RCAF motto, means “to the stars.” Onward, Dad.