By Chuck Alling
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It was time to earn our paychecks or ship out. Life at the air base was quite simple, marked by a sense of order and mutual respect. We spent a few weeks in ground training, then formation flying and getting accustomed to our assigned plane. We were ready to rise at 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning, and when we did, we would quietly and expeditiously don our gear. From the moment we opened our eyes, no one spoke. In the early hours of the morning, silence was preferable; in fact, breaking the silence was unacceptable.
Together, we went to the operations officer who persuaded Mal to stay with us until we got to Europe. He reasoned that they needed bomber crews overseas, and he said that once we were there, Mal would be relieved of flying duties and our crew could pick up another bombardier. The officer reiterated that no crew could be sent overseas unless it was up to full complement. I promised Mal that I would see to it that we would talk to the chaplain at the air base, who would get Mal the help he needed and deserved.
But Ray was more. He didn’t have a loud, boisterous laugh but a dry sense of humor, and when he smiled you knew it was funny. Ray was raised on a cotton farm in western Tennessee. His family was short of money, food, and clothes, and experienced shelter problems common to the area at that time, made worse by the Depression. Ray entered the Army Air Corps in February of 1943, two weeks after his nineteenth birthday. After completing basic training at Miami Beach, he was sent to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for radio operator and gunnery school.