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N.M. man to receive World War II medals

On Saturday Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., will present former Army Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marion G. Young, a resident of Peralta, with the Distinguished Flying Cross and a number of other medals and recognitions for his service in World War II.

“I am honored to recognize Tech. Sgt. Young’s heroism and service to his country,” Pearce said in a news release. “As Americans, we owe our freedoms to such heroes, and New Mexicans are proud of his shining example of service and valor. I am proud to express my gratitude on behalf of a grateful nation.”

Young was inducted to the 2523rd Army Air Forces Base Unit in Dallas on Jan. 20, 1943, and he served as a radio operator and mechanic gunner in the campaigns of Rome-Arno, Southern France, Air Offensive Europe, Air Combat Balkans and North Apennines, according to Pearce’s office.

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He will be recognized for his heroic actions during the summer of 1944 at a ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at VFW Post 9767, Daniel Fernandez Park, Old Highway 314 in Los Lunas.

For a profile of Young, here’s a 2009 article from the Valencia County News-Bulletin:

Marion G. “Red” Young is the liveliest dead man you will ever meet.

“My mother got a telegraph telling her I was MIA. Then she got, ‘We regret to inform you . . .’ I’ve read my own obituary,” Young says. “It’s amazing what a nice guy you are âeuro• after you’re dead.”

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

“I took the Army General Classification Test, and they told me I got 138 out of 150,” he said. “They also told me I had the first perfect score on code. I can’t say I’m surprised. I played the guitar since I was 6, so it seemed fairly straight forward to me.”

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.

“There were some similarities, but they are not the same,” he said.

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.

“They had literally just scraped off a bean field,” he said. “We landed on those mud runways, and with those heavy bombers, that was a real chore.”

Loaded down with eight 500-pound bombs and 27,050 gallons of fuel, Young said the pilots learned the trick of “bouncing” the planes at the end of the usually too-short runways to get them off the ground.

“One morning we didn’t quite make it and hit an olive tree,” Young remembered. “We just kept going. We flew out of there for a year.”

Young was a radio operator, mechanic and gunner, sitting right behind the copilot in the radio room. He refers to the planes as “whistling outhouses.”

Flying at 20,000 to 25,000 feet up in temperatures 55 to 65 degrees below zero, crews required oxygen and special caution around the guns.

“If you touched a gun, your hand stuck and you pulled back a skeleton,” he said.

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.

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,” he 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. 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 says, affecting an English accent.

He laughs. “It was funny, I suppose, but it wasn’t,” he said. “That was quite a sacrifice for him. Those guys only made about a dollar a month.”

Young has other humourous stories about cathouses, stolen Jeeps and the military police. But he also has more stories about missions and injured crew mates.

“There was one time, we were taking fire and a shell ripped through the fuselage and hit our copilot in the knee. It took out most of it except for a little bit of flesh on the back,” Young remembers. “I grabbed him under the arms and pulled him back to the deck. Left the leg behind.”

After applying a tourniquet to stop the bleeding, and giving the copilot his own oxygen mask, Young also had to get the pilot, a major, under control.

“He was just flat out panicking. Yelling that we had to bail out right now,” Young said. “Well, we were over enemy waters on the Mediterranean, and if we had bailed out, we all would have perished. So I grabbed him by the shoulders and set him down, told the crew we were not bailing out. Everything was OK because our tech sergeant was flying the plane. We all knew how to fly.

“Well, he sat down, and we got back to the base. I guess I should have been court marshalled for that.”

Instead, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He pauses for a minute, then looks you straight in the eye. “It was blood and guts over there,” Young says evenly. “Our blood, and our guts.”

While Young describes himself as nothing more than a ” drafted civilian,” he said he was very proud to serve with the Tuskegee Airmen of Alabama.

“We were so proud to fly with them. They didn’t sit up in the sun and wait until the other planes were out of fuel and ammo and then ‘ace’ them,” he said. “They flew cover just like they were ordered.”

The first mission Young’s crew flew with them ended up with one of the Tuskegee planes being shot down by friendly fire.

“They flew the P51s that looked almost just like the German Messerschmitt 109s, and one of ours became injured, so they were flying under them for protection,” he said. “Well, one of our trigger-happy ball gunners shot one of the P51s down.”

Later that night, a squadron of Tuskegee planes paid a visit to the crew’s sleeping area.

“They knocked down every tent with prop wash, wave after wave. It rained all night,” Young said. “I can guarantee from then on we knew the difference between a P51 and a Messerschmitt 109.”

After returning to the states, Young went back to school, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Texas Tech and a masters at the University of Texas-Austin. He is certified in mechanical, electrical and civil engineering in both Texas and New Mexico.

Young eventually took a job with the Southwest Public Service Company, now Xcel Energy, in Oklahoma. After skillfully handling a massive power outage one winter during an ice storm that coated most of the Oklahoma panhandle in several inches of ice, Young was promoted to the supervisor of the power company’s Oklahoma and Kansas region.

“They called me in the middle of the night and said, ‘we need you here right now,’” Young said in reference to the ice storm. “Everything was on the ground. At one point, I had 2,300 people working under me. I had to drive over 40 miles to use a phone, but we got everything back up and hot in 31 days.”

Not long after his promotion, Young visited Albuquerque to visit a friend from the service.

“He told me he had an interview with Sandia Labs lined up for me in the morning. I wasn’t really that interested. I was the top man in my region, so why would I want to go back to the bottom of the ladder?” Young said. “He said, ‘Oh just go. It will be quick.’”

That one quick interview turned into an 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. marathon of seven interviews that ended in seven job offers. For an extra $275 a month, Young made the ‘downward’ move and took a position with the lab.

“I had a family and five, six mouths to feed,” he said. For five years, Young tested the firing systems components and became lead engineer in that department.

Eventually, he was transferred to systems with the test and evaluation team.

“We were the ones that tested, stockpiled and certified the building of the weapons,” he said.

During his time with Sandia, Young worked on projects such as the Persian and Minuteman missile development.

“We were fighting the Cold War. I certified the neutron bomb to go for manufacture and stockpiling,” he said. “I was their main warhead guy.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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