By Michael Naya, Jr., Historian
photos by Alex Szwarc, Ray Owen, Michael Naya
Of the many World War II veterans I have interviewed, Lt. Ray Owen holds a special place in my heart. He is one of two veterans of VF 81 stationed aboard the U.S.S. WASP in the Pacific who survive. Ray enlisted in the Navy Reserve in August, 1942. Once his orders arrived, he trained in North Carolina and Athens, Georgia. In 1944, after graduating from flight school at Corpus Christi, Texas, he was assigned to the U.S.S. WASP as an F6F Hellcat pilot. Ray recounted, “Aboard the WASP, we flew missions almost daily. Some were strikes, some were patrols. Our strikes were against the Japanese in the Philippines. We were at Leyte island when MacArthur made his landing there. We were tasked with supporting the initial landings. We also made strikes against Tokyo. It was there that I faced down a few Japanese planes, had my wing shot, and fortunately made it home! But with the new F6F Hellcats, the Japanese fighters didn't stand a chance! Many veterans of World War II and historians alike often forget the sacrifices made by Navy and Marine Corps pilots who served in World War II. Without their heroic actions, the war in the Pacific may have turned out very differently. Thanks to Lt. Ray Owen and others, we are able to live in freedom today! Remembering their heroic actions is the least that we can do. Thanks, Ray!
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