It was in January 1943 when Richard Mauzy, a Parsons High School senior at the time, was drafted for military service in World War II.
Although he was granted a deferment to finish his education until May 28 of that year, Mauzy said, he soon entered U.S. Army basic training, airplane mechanic school and airplane gunnery school so he could defend his country. Mauzy, who has lived in Parsons since being discharged on Oct. 25, 1945, said he is proud to have served his country.
Mauzy began basic training in Greensboro, N.C., on June 28, 1943. He said it lasted 13 weeks.
Afterward, he traveled to Biloxi, Miss., for a six-month stint in airplane mechanic school, where he learned about the intricacies of the B-24 bomber, and then he moved to Tyndall Field Air Force Base, near Panama City, Fla., for a three-month period in aerial gunnery school. There he learned about air to ground defense with .50-caliber machine guns.
Mauzy said his first combat mission was in Athens, Greece, where his group bombed an air field. He said airfields and oilfields were the most common targets his squadrons bombed.
Over the next two years, Mauzy targeted fields in Bleckhammer, Germany; Wels, Austria; and Vienna, Austria. It was on March 25, 1945, that the B-24 he was occupying almost went down.
Mauzy said he was returning from a mission in Vienna when his plane was hit by 88 mm shells shot by German ground troops. The shells only caused the loss of one engine - out of four - and he said his crew was lucky to make it home alive.
Mauzy said he was in charge of the guns in a top turret of a B-24. The plane in total, he said, included defense from a nose turret, a top turret that revolved 360 degrees, guns in each waist window of the plane, a ball turret on the underside of the aircraft and a tail gun.
"The turret revolves," he said about his often-used top turret.
"You hoped you didn't see anything you had to shoot," he said, "(but) there was always the idea that you might."
Mauzy said he was lucky to be alive now and in good health. Some, he said, weren't so lucky.
Before one mission, he said, a pastor blessed his squadron.
"Good night, and God bless," Mauzy said, performing an impression of the pastor.
It was with tears in his eyes that Mauzy recalled the men who lost their lives following that blessing and during the war as a whole.
"Some of them didn't make it back," he said, with a crack in his voice.
His last three combat missions were on the 15th, 16th and 17th of April in 1945. His last days in the service were spent on an Army base in Sioux Falls, S.D., before he was discharged.
Despite the hardships, he said he wouldn't trade anything for his time spent in the service.
"My experience is that I wouldn't take a million dollars to replace my time there," he said.
He was awarded several medals and honors, alongside achieving the rank of technical sergeant, while in the service:
- the Air Medal, with 2 clusters;
- the European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal;
- the American Campaign Medal;
- the Good Conduct Medal;
- the World War II Victory Medal;
- and the Aerial Gunner's Wings.