oman (Ray) Mierzejewski was born 3 DEC 1923 in New Bedford, MA. He is the 4th of 5 sons born to Jozef and Anna Mierzejewski. Ray is good working with his hands and enters New Bedford Vocational High School as a Carpentry student in January 1939. Less than a year later, at age 16 he leaves High School to work as a carpenter at Ft. Belvoir, VA. The US is already starting the buildup for WWII. While working at Ft. Belvoir he lives at the Keystone Hotel, located just a few blocks from the White House in DC. In March 1941 Ray returns home and to school in Massachusetts. Ray turns 18 a few days before Pearl Harbor is attacked. Like many others, he leaves school and joins the Army Air Force on 29 January 1942. He is sent to Ft. Devens, MA for in processing and soon is assigned to the 104th Observation Squadron in Atlantic City, NJ. The 104th was part of the Maryland National Guard that was Federalized and was flying anti-submarine patrols. On 8 April 1942 Ray is promoted to Aviation Cadet at the 1229th Reception Center, Ft. Dix, NJ. With his promotion his pay goes up to $75.00 a month, plus $1.00 per day for rations (food). He is ordered to Kelly Field, TX to start flight training. He becomes part of Class 42-K. After pre-flight, he is sent to Corsicana, TX for Primary, Perrin Field Sherman, TX for Basic, and later to Foster Field, Victoria, TX for Advance flight training. He is Commissioned and receives his wings on 13 DEC 1942, only 10 days after turning 19. This makes Ray one of the youngest pilots in the AAF. After 2 weeks leave, Ray continues his training with 306th Fighter Squadron, 338th Fighter Group, at Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee, FL. This ‘transition training’ get pilots into combat planes and gets them ready as replacement pilots overseas. After 9 weeks of training, Ray gets 2 more weeks leave before shipping out from New York City to Casablanca, Algeria, N. Africa. After arriving in N. Africa, Ray spends some time in local training before assigned as a detached pilot at Chateaudun du Rhoel, Algeria flying night missions. On 20 May 43 Ray is assigned to the 317th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group flying Merlin powered P-40s. After the fall of Pantelleria, the 325th flies many missions over Sardinia in preparation for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. The mission on 28 June 43 was to escort B-26 bombers of the 17th Bomber Group over Decimomannu Airdrome on Sardinia. Italian and German fighters attack hard, and an intense air battle rages. The 325th does its job and all bombers return to N. Africa. Sadly, Ray’s planes does not. The AAF simply says ‘failed to return, cause unknown.’ Years later a witness to the air battle is found. He said Ray’s plane get into a one-on-one dogfight with an Italian Ace flying the new MC 205. Both pilots get shots off at the other. It looks like Ray realized he was alone and tried to break contact and get back to his Group. The Italian gets in one last long-range burst, and Ray’s plane starts to burn. He is able to bail out of his burning P-40, but he is to low for his parachute to fully open, dyeing when he lands. The next morning an Italian Air Force Chaplin gives Ray a full Catholic funeral when he is buried with Military Honors. However, Ray is listed as ‘Missing’ for almost a year before his grave is found by Allied troops. After the war, Ray’s body is moved to the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy, which opens to the public in 1956
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