WWII veteran recalls time in Air Corps
Vaughan took every opportunity to fly planes
These days, Cassville resident Ray Vaughan spends every morning during the week at the Cassville Senior Center, but back in 1943, his time was spent doing a little more than chatting with fellow seniors over lunch.
A WWII veteran, Vaughan, who said he was just piddling around doing odd jobs after graduating high school, joined the Air Corps at the age of 20, and as a corporal, was stationed in the Pacific, working as a crew member on
C-47 airplanes traveling back and forth from Japan.
"I joined the Air Corps because I wanted to fly," he said. "We were in C-47s, which could hold 28 passengers, and we mainly flew supplies and the wounded back and forth from Japan."
Although he was only a crew member and not a pilot, Vaughan said he did have his chances to get in the cockpit.
"Sometimes, the pilot would allow me to fly, and that was like a dream come true," he said. "There was one time when the pilot was talking to the wounded and we had an early lunch, so the co-pilot fell asleep. We were flying at 5,000 feet over the ocean going to California, and the pilot said, 'Okie, take over.'"
Vaughan said his normal duties included loading and unloading the 11 planes at his base, as well as managing the motor pool, which meant making sure the planes and vehicles were parked where they needed to be and supplies were brought where they were needed.
His nickname, Okie, came from his Oklahoma background.
"When I was four years old, we went from Missouri to Oklahoma in a wagon," he said. "I enlisted in Oklahoma, and sometimes, the pilots just referred to you as where you were from."
Vaughan never saw action in the war, but did survive a Japanese attack one time.
"We only had one plane damaged when I was there, and that was when were on one of Japan's islands and the Japanese fired at us," he said. "One bullet went through the tail of our C-47, and that's the closest I ever was to getting hit, and the only time I was ever fired on. I'll never forget that day."
Vaughan served 25 months in the Air Corps, leaving the military on Nov. 1, 1945.
"That was also the last day I tasted coffee," he said. "I drank my last cup on the way to California, just a little before noon. I never really liked the taste of coffee."
After returning from the war, Vaughan worked construction and with concrete. He went on to spend 31 years working for Exxon, retiring as its chief safety officer, traveling around the United States giving safety presentations at company posts.
Vaughan said his favorite part of his service was being in the cockpit, but he also enjoyed how the Air Corps kept him busy.
"There was always something to do, and I like to work," he said. "If anyone is looking to join the military, I'd say go to the Air Force, because you get to see the world. If you're in infantry, you just sit and it's a dead end. But in the Air Corps, there was always something to do.
"The Air Force is the only way to go. You learn a lot about mechanical work and flying, and they always think positive. If you think negative, you'll get mixed up, but if you think positive, it's always a plus."
Vaughan said he has maybe seen one of his crew mates once since serving, and he does not talk to them any more. However, he has made a friend in Max Meek, who frequents the Cassville Senior Center and has lunch with Vaughan nearly every day.
"Ray is a good man who loves his country," Meek said. "When someone stole the flag from the Center, he could not understand why anyone would do that. He was here when Sen. Roy Blunt presented us with a new flag, and he was very happy about that."
Meek met Vaughan on the first day he came to the center.
"I started coming here about one year ago, and the first day I walked through the door, Ray asked me to sit at his table, and this is where I sit every day. He's a pretty good old Joe to hang around with."
Meek was in high school during the Vietnam War, and would have likely been drafted had the draft not ended two months before he graduated. His father was in the Navy and served in WWII.
"Ray has a lot of good stories, and he's a great man," Meek said.