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Remembering Rarey

June 2024
1min read

I was a staff sergeant in George Rarey’s 379th Fighter Squadron in World War II (‘You Mustn’t Let It Bother You Too Much,” June/July 2004). I was enlisted chief of operations and in the course of a day rubbed shoulders with him and Hugh Houghton, the operations officer.

Rarey was what every man would like to be. He was urbane, witty, friendly, devoid of airs, down-to-earth, and an experienced pilot and flight leader. He somehow found the time to personalize each pilot’s aircraft by painting its engine cowling with its name or symbol. Everyone loved this guy. You couldn’t help it.

One look at the drawings in his notebook and you saw the talent he had for cartooning. We used to gather around to watch him as the drawings flowed from his mind to his fingers. All of us seeing this magic knew that he had a brilliant future ahead, that he would one day be one of America’s top cartoonists.

The afternoon he went down was the blackest day in the history of the 379th. We stood around and waited and waited, kicking clods of dirt and looking repeatedly toward the horizon.

Finally, McKee touched down on the runway in his damaged aircraft, rolled to a stop, cut the engine, and bowed his head. Then we knew.

All I can remember then is standing there and struggling vainly with the ancient rule: Grown men don’t cry.

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