Leslie J. Tyler was born in Salamanca, New York, and graduated from Dunmore High School in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. After graduation from the University of Scranton, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a lead navigator in the 301st Bomb Group, 353rd Squadron, flying out of Foggia, Italy. His plane was shot down in March 1945, but the crew survived and was captured; he spent the remainder of the war as a German POW.
After the war, he became a renowned research chemist. He published his memoir, Wild Blue Yonder: An Adventure of Hitler's Hostages, in 1992.