Published On: October 7th, 2018|568 words|1.9 min read|
Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Air Corps Veteran Nathaniel G. Raley. Nathaniel served as a fighter pilot during World War II.
Nathaniel was at the movies when he heard about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. He enlisted soon after, knowing he wanted to be a fighter pilot. After intensive training, Nathaniel was assigned to the 12th Air Force and sent to North Africa in 1943 as part of a combat fighter squadron. He was in Tunisia at first and spent most of his time escorting bombers. One time, he had the opportunity to escort President Franklin Roosevelt to Malta. Nathaniel had flown so often that only three other pilots had more missions than him. Each of these pilots had been shot down on their 44th mission and soon Nathaniel was at the top. When it came time for his own 44th mission, he was nervous, but returned safely. He later led his squadron on a dive-bombing mission in Italy. The clouds were low in the sky, making the mission difficult and Nathaniel was shot down. He bailed out of his plane before it crashed into the ground and was taken prisoner by the Germans.
The Germans moved Nathaniel around to various prisons. At first, he was held for a month in a prison near the town of Laterina, where he received only two cups of watery soup to eat each day. He then spent two months in Stalag VII-A Prison near Munich. This is where they interrogated Nathaniel and eventually placed him in solitary confinement because he would not give up any information, he was put in solitary confinement. He spent the most time at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany. As the war neared its end, food became scarce and some of the fellow prisoners were forced to eat cats to survive. Nathaniel was liberated by the Russians in May 1945 and sent back home. Upon his return he attended the University of Alabama and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. Nathaniel struggled with PTSD after his return and would sometimes have screaming nightmares during his sleep. For his service, Nathaniel earned the Purple Heart, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and nine Air Medals. He passed away in May of 2017. More of his story can be found at http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.00449/.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Graphic By Lilian Vo: Lilian Vo is an undergraduate senior at George Mason University studying Global Affairs and Intelligence Analysis.