Nearly 65 Years Later

The 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., held a ceremony on Aug. 29 to award Howard Thornton, now 85, the medals that he earned as an aerial gunner on B-24 bombers in the European theater during World War II but had never formally received. Thorton, then a technical sergeant, flew on 53 B-24 missions out of Spinazzola, Italy, as part of the 763rd Bomb Squadron, 460th Bomb Group, including the Ploesti, Romania, oil field raids in summer 1943. Col. Mark Kelly, 4th FW commander, presented Thornton with the medals, which including his fourth Air Medal, second Purple Heart, third and fourth European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medals, American Campaign Medal, and World War II Victory Medal. A 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis that damaged Thorton’s personnel file delayed his recognition. (Seymour Johnson report by 2nd Lt. Matt Schroff)