Tucker County’s Mauzy brothers served in World War II
Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series for 2018, which features veterans in our area sharing first-hand accounts of their military service. The series will be published each Monday through Veterans Day.
PARSONS — Being apart while serving overseas during World War II could not break the bond of two brothers who now spend time together everyday.
Rich Mauzy, 94, and his brother Paul, 96, both of Parsons, still recall memories from their service during WWII.
In 1943 Rich was drafted and from June 15, 1943, until his discharge in October 1946, served in the 15th United States Army Air Corps as a tech sergeant. He said he had a “great experience” as a gunner on a B-24.
“I was the flight engineer — I would write the records and when we would go out on a mission, I had to fill out a form with all the names and serial numbers to leave with the ground man in case something would happen, they would know who we were,” he said.
“I was classified as an engineer — I was a mechanic in the air. … Once I had to transfer gas out of the auxiliaries into the main cell and then I had fuses that burned out in the heating systems that needed to be changed, so it was then that I classified myself as a mechanic in the air,” he joked. “That’s why I got the extra rating, though; normally, they just have a staff sergeant but I was a technical sergeant.”
Throughout his years of service, Rich completed 28 missions in countries including Italy, Germany, Greece and Austria.
“We bombed the air fields to keep the Germans from using them — we would do this by knocking potholes in the runways,” he said. “Transportation and oil were our biggest targets — bridges, roads and oil to slow down the enemy.”
The crew who served with Rich consisted of 10 members and was a young crew, he said.
“The thing about our crew — there were 10 men, four officers and six enlisted men — the oldest man on our crew was the ball turret gunner, he was 25 or 26, and our pilot was 21. … Normally they’re older.” Rich said.
“Three of our gunners were all young boys, all around 18; so, we were just a bunch of kids. … I was 18 and it was a great experience.”
Before becoming a gunner, he hoped to become a cook so he could gain skills that would help him when returning home.
“A fella asked me what I wanted to do in the service and I said ‘I’d like to learn more about cutting meat,’ so I was told I would have to go to cook and baker school for that, but he said I was qualified to do higher class work,” he said. “He said he thought I would make a good plane mechanic, so they sent me to airplane mechanic school in Mississippi. When I was finished there, they needed gunners, so we were sent to Florida for gunnery school.”
Today, Rich, who lives only a few doors down the street from Paul, often cooks meals for the two of them as they frequently spend time together.
Paul completed high school and was drafted in 1942 into the U.S. Army where he served as a medical technician. He has memories from D-Day and of helping another soldier who happened to also be from Tucker County.
“We made the initial landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. … We helped to save a lot of people’s lives (during the war),” he said.
“When they went in to take care of the wounded they would give them pain pills and send them out on the English Channel to the hospital. Paul went to give a boy a pain pill and the boy looked up at him and said, ‘Paul, what are you doing here?’ It was a boy from Parsons and when he come home he told everyone that Paul saved his life because he kept him from starving to death by bringing him cookies and candy while he was there,” Rich added.
Aside from helping to aid U.S. soldiers, Paul and other medics were sent to concentration camps to help anyone still living as the war neared its end.
“After the war they used the medics to go into concentration camps to see,” Rich said.
Paul served in England, France, Germany and Italy and returned home in 1945.
Although the two had no contact with one another while overseas, they awaited news from home to hear that the other was safe.
“We would get the news from home — he would write to home and so would I,” Rich said.
While in South Dakota, Rich said he was called by a man with the last name Mauzy — the two met and discovered they were actually first cousins.
“One day I got a phone call and I had imagined that something happened at home or there was bad news, so when I answered, the man said, ‘I’ve been in the service now about five years and you’re the first one that has the same name that I have.’ He asked me to come down and talk to see if we were related, so I did and sure enough, he was a cousin,” Rich said.
Following their return home from the war, Rich and Paul worked with their father in a family owned meat shop and grocery store in Parsons.
While working in the store, the Mauzy family received a surprise visit by their cousin, Bob, who traveled to Parsons.
“We had a meat shop after the war — my dad, Paul and me. About a year after coming home, a fella walked into our shop and asked if I remembered him. I said I remembered,” Rich said. “We invited him down — he had just got married — so he and his bride came down to eat supper with us.”
In addition, Rich noted he and his brother stayed in contact with other comrades over the years, some visiting the Parsons area and others who took part in reunions.
Rich and Paul’s younger brother, John, also served in WWII as a member of the U.S. Navy.