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December 7, 2012

Pearl Harbor Day sparks World War II memories

NEW CASTLE — The attack on Pearl Harbor is what led the United States into the second world war.

And today — on the anniversary of that 1941 assault — World War II veterans across the country are remembering their service.

Among them is New Castle resident Michael A. Rainey.

Born Dec. 28, 1923, Rainey was just 19 when he entered the service on March 26, 1943. After training at the Harlingen gunnery school in Texas, he became a corporal and an upper turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator. He was stationed with the 15th Air Force, based in Italy from 1943 to 1945.

During his service, he said, he survived many frightening moments — in the air and on the ground.

He recalled a time when his plane had been shot down behind enemy lines and he was forced to parachute to the ground.

“Luckily for us, we landed safely and got help from Italian civilians,” he recalled.

“Flying to heights of 10,000 feet or two miles up in the air and being shot at from all directions, the chances of being shot down or killed were great,” he said. “I lost a lot of my buddies up there.”

He also recalled a time when flak had riddled his plane and taken out all but one of the engines. The nose gunner was wounded, he said, and they barely made it back to the base on that single engine.

Rainey said his plane was dubbed “Hurry Back” and that wish was painted in bold letters for all who flew to see.

During his service, he flew in numerous attacks on enemy targets in Germany, France, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Italy, he said. On his missions, he bombed airdromes, oil refineries, railroad yards and bridges.

After completing 50 required missions, he attained the title of staff sergeant. He also was awarded the Air Medal, along with three Oak Leaf Clusters, one of which authorized him to wear the Distinguished Unit Badge as a member of a heavy bombardment group twice cited by the War Department for “outstanding performance of duty in armed conflict with the enemy.”

Along with all those honors, he brought home pictures and memories in the form of newspaper clippings that family members recently found in the attic.

Those memories have been showcased in a scrapbook constructed by Jamie Pease, an employee of Golden Hill Nursing Home, and titled, “An American Hero, Michael A. Rainey.”

When asked what memory stands out the most from his time in the service, Rainey’s quick response is, “I was glad to come home.”

He left home as a teenager and returned home as an American hero.

Rainey lives at Golden Hill Nursing Home, enjoying visits from his daughter, Lucia Doneluck, his son, John Rainey, and their families.

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