Hometown Heroes

From P-47 Pilot to Prisoner

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LISTEN to Ray Maloney on Hometown Heroes —- LISTEN to Part II of Ray’s Interview
92-year-old Ray Maloney of Bonita Springs, FL appears on episode #347 of Hometown Heroes, debuting December 27, 2014. A native of New York, Maloney served as a P-47 pilot with the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group, 527th squadron during World War II. You’ll hear Ray remember how he found out about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and how he would have never been born if not for his father being wounded while fighting in World War I. That sounds a little odd, but it’s true, and you can follow along as you listen to Hometown Heroes. Ray would be injured himself, and captured, but he never considered that possibility as he pursued his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.

The insignia of the 527 Fighter Squadron.

The insignia of the 527th Fighter Squadron.

He initially tried to get into naval aviation, but was rejected by the Navy because of a heart murmur. When he later enlisted in the Army Air Corps, there was no mention of the supposed murmur. You’ll hear him remember his training, including the most challenging aspect of it, which had nothing to do with aviation but everything to do with communication. In April of 1944, before he headed overseas, he married Cressida, and they are still married today, but little did Ray know how much he would have to survive and endure in order to see her again.

Cressida and Ray Maloney after 70 years of marriage.

Cressida and Ray Maloney after 70 years of marriage.

You’ll hear Ray remember arriving in Naples, Italy, and how having to come ashore by climbing across a capsized ship left him with the impression that war was serious business. From there, he was taken to Bastia, on Corsica, to prepare for the invasion of Southern France. Listen to Ray share his most harrowing moments flying from Corsica, and follow along as he moves to the Tuscan city of Grosseto. Just 21 years old and flying several missions per week, Ray came face to face with danger. There were missions when he brought his P-47 back with bullet holes, and there were times when he learned good friends of his had been killed in action. You’ll learn why he gave his son the middle name “John,” as well as the unique way in which he reconnected 40 years after the war with one of his best friends Al Leventhal. Follow this link to read about the POW experience of another pilot he mentions, Paul Lefkow. As the missions mounted, Maloney remembers starting to wear down. “You being to think that maybe the odds are going to catch up to you,” Ray recalls. “You become a little bit more cautious, you’re not as reckless as when you first started your combat.” He remembers strafing German convoys at “treetop level,” and having the German troops fire their weapons, throw their helmets and mess kits in the air, and use any means necessary to try to take down the fighter planes.
“The only heroes that I can see,” Ray insists, “are the ones who were killed.”


From the November 1944 war diary of the 527th Fighter Squadron

On November 5, 1944, a week before his 22nd birthday, Ray came extremely close to joining that number. A train car with sixteen 20mm guns fired away at his P-47 as he made a strafing pass near Modena, Italy damaging the Thunderbolt’s fuel system. Listen to Hometown Heroes to find out how he kept the plane airborne for a while, before eventually realizing he would have to bail out. “There was no place I could put this airplane,” Maloney recalls. “So I had to get out of it.” Bailing out just seconds before the plane went down, Ray didn’t leave himself enough time for his parachute to fully deploy. “The Good Lord was watching over me that day,” he says of the fact that he survived the brutal impact. Years after the war he learned that his wingman had reported back to the unit that he didn’t think Maloney had survived. Survive he did, but he was in “terrible pain” after landing on his heels and rear end. Hobbled, unable to stand, and in extreme pain, he expended all the ammunition he had trying to fend off the German forces that came to capture him, and you’ll learn which German word he was able to summon to ultimately communicate the severity of his condition. “Scared skinny,” is how he described how he felt about the uncertainty of his future as a prisoner of war. You’ll hear him remember how he spent his 22nd birthday in captivity, what helpful piece of advice his German guards shared with him, and what he experienced at the infamous interrogation center known as “Dulag Luft.” Because Ray’s story has so many twists and turns, and he tells it so well, his is one of the rare stories that will stretch across two episodes of Hometown Heroes. Catch the rest of Ray’s tale next time, when we’ll hear about life in two different POW camps, the relief and exhilaration of his liberation, and a few of the adventures he has enjoyed since World War II. CLICK HERE to read a story about Ray that Jay Schlichter wrote for the Collier Citizen.

To listen to other pilots who served in the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group, click on the links below:
EPISODE #38, Eli Setencich
EPISODE #148, John Weiner
Paul Loeffler

  1. Lindsay Baringer Reply

    Hi, I am interested in the link in which Ray Maloney discusses Paul Lefkow. I am Paul Lefkow’s granddaughter and would love to know what Ray says about him, and if they knew each other. If I could get any information about the link or what Ray says, I would really appreciate it.

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