Tueller played his trumpet every evening throughout the war. During the D-Day invasion at Normandy, they were forced to camp out in dark, muddy, rainy conditions with nothing to eat after a day of flying. Supply trucks had been destroyed and the pilots lived off the land for two weeks and slept under the wings of their planes. Tueller played his trumpet into the night.
Tueller never needed his music more than in the aftermath of one mission that is burned indelibly in his mind. They were attacking a convoy of German tanks in France. Just as they were about to release their bombs and open up with machine guns, they noticed bright colors — red, yellow and purple — on top of the tanks. They looked closer and saw women and children riding on the tanks, with German rifles pointed at them.
"They were using civilians as shields with bright clothes so they'd be seen," says Tueller. "They knew an American boy wouldn't shoot, and we didn't. Not one of us fired on them. We were angry. We were ordered back."
They returned to their base, but were ordered to return and take out the tanks. "The French civilians, it was decided, were expendable," says Tueller, bitterly. Tueller and his comrades followed orders and destroyed the tanks. "I live with that image," he says. "I always will. The image of what eight 50-caliber machine guns did to those people."
That night he started to play his trumpet to soothe his harrowed conscience, but his commander told him to put it away. A sniper was hiding nearby with a sonic listening device. A man playing a trumpet would be an easy target.
"I got behind a big apple tree and played anyway," he recalls. "I thought, he's as scared and homesick as I am. I played 'Lili Marlene' — a song made famous by Marlene Dietrich. I wailed that over the apple orchards and the sniper didn't fire."
The next morning, as Tueller was getting ready to take off for another mission, he was approached by several MPs. They had captured several Germans the previous night, they explained, and one of them kept asking who had played the trumpet. Tueller grabbed his trumpet and jumped in the Jeep for the ride to the beach to meet the German. The prisoner was 19 years old and dressed in the disguise of a French peasant. He was the sniper.
"He said that when he heard the music that he burst into tears and couldn't shoot anymore," recalls Tueller. "He said it reminded him of his fiancé and his brothers and sisters and parents. He was no enemy, because of the music. He stuck out his hand, and I shook the hand of the enemy. Two people who were supposed to hate each other were able to shake hands because of music."
In a 2010 video, World War II veteran Col. Jack Leroy Tueller shares his incredibly moving story of how “the power of music” neutralized a German sniper and humanized the enemy: