Medals awarded to WWII veteran

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The deeds were done 68 years ago, but the memories are still fresh for Tech Sgt. Marion G. “Red” Young.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), left, presented World War II veteran Tech Sgt. Marion G. “Red” Young, center, with six medals and recognitions for his service. While Young had been awarded the commendations, they had never been presented to him. James Garley, right, the commander of the Daniel D. Fernandez Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9676, was also on hand for the ceremony.

Approaching 90 years old, Young remembers the combat missions he flew in World War II.

And while he was awarded several decorations for his time in the Army, the Peralta resident never received the physical reminders of his service.

During a brief ceremony on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) presented Young with six medals and recognitions. Young and his family crowded into the Daniel D. Fernandez Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9676 in Los Lunas to see the deed done.

Young was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, EAME Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and an Honorable Service lapel button.

Pearce thanked James Garley, the post commander, for being a part of the ceremony and hosting the event at the post.

“These posts don’t run themselves,” Pearce said. “We need someone to keep the flame burning.”

Young was part of the 2523rd Army Air Forces Base Unit in Dallas and served as a radio operator and a mechanic gunner in the campaigns of Rome-Arno, southern France, air offensive Europe, air combat Balkans and north Apennines.

During a mission over Italy, Young’s plane took flak and 20 mm cannon fire. Despite being heavily damage, the plane went out over the target twice to drop its payload.

“These young men and women went out and did their duty,” Pearce said. “Even though one of every three B-17 crews were lost.”

Many of the soldiers serving during those dangerous times were awarded medals and commendations, Pearce said, but in the rush to come home, many times the decorations were awarded but never given to the person.

In 2004, staff from around Pearce’s Congressional District 2 went out with voice recorders to find veterans and record their tales of service. The effort was part of an oral history project through the Library of Congress.

“I would encourage Sgt. Young’s family to record his memories and we will help get that to the Library of Congress,” he said.

After the presentation of the decorations, Young spoke briefly, recalling the bombing of Tulan, France, to prepare for Gen. Patton’s landing on the beach.

“We were hit with an 88 mm shell in the cockpit and the pilot was lost,” Young said. “We ended up on the island of Corsica.”

Young flew 17 missions total, during what he called a “rough part of the war.”

When he wasn’t flying, Young was part of the intelligence office doing observation.

“The proper people were observed, prosecuted and executed,” he said. “I’ll stop right there. You need a super secret clearance for more.”

Born in Ravenna, Texas, on Oct. 27, 1922, Young was drafted into the Army on Jan. 20, 1943.

During his training, Young attended gunnery school, radio school and after being assigned to a combat crew, he was shipped to Colorado Springs for training on the B-17 bombers. Eventually, he was also trained on the B-24 bombers.

In March of that year, he received his orders to ship out overseas. After being routed through northern Africa, Young arrived on a mud airfield in Italy.

With the average life expectancy of a flight crew at nine missions, Young flew 70 sorties during his time in the Army. While there was some aerial combat, most of the crew’s concerns were focused on the ground and anti-aircraft fire.

During a News-Bulletin interview in 2009, Young recounted one of the many close calls he and his fellow flyers had during their missions.

On May 31, 1944, while flying over Romania targeting oil refineries that fueled enemy vehicles, Young’s plane took heavy fire. It limped back to base with 129 holes in the fuselage.

“Everything was gone,” Young said. “We were walking around in an inch of hydraulic fluid. When we got back to the field, it took us five passes to land.”

When the plane was less than a foot above the ground, the pilot hit the main switch, Young said, deploying the parachutes on both wings.

“We ran out the entire mile and a half of that runway, and our nose ended up in a British anti-aircraft foxhole,” he said.

“I guess I was one of the first ones out of the plane, because one of the British soldiers stuck a bottle of Scotch in my face and said, ‘Here. You deserve this, you bloody bloke,’” Young said, affecting an English accent.

He laughed.

“It was funny, I suppose, but it wasn’t,” he said.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.