Ray Ilich

RAY ILICH, born February 2, 1924, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Enlisted as an aviation Cadet shortly after graduation from High School. Graduated and commissioned at Craig Field, Selma, Alabama in class of 43-I. First combat assignment in early 1944 with the 346th Fighter Squadron, 350th Fighter Group.

He was based at Caguari Sadenia, flying P-39's. He flew anti-sub patrol protecting ship convoys in the Mediterrarian Sea, while moving up the west coast of Italy behind the 5th Army advances. The 346th was re-equipped with P-47's and the mission changed to interdiction in support of "operation strangle" and the 5th Army. He flew 102 missions destroying ammunition depots, power stations, bridges, trains, tunnels, and railways.

Awarded the Air Medal with 4 clusters. Returned to the U.S. in early 1945. He flew as an advanced flight instructor, single engine for a period, then flew P-51's as a reconnaissance pilot. He was a member of the 8th fighter group flying P-51's at Itazuke, Japan in 1949. At the outbreak of the Korean War he was a senior controller, Air Operations Center at Itazuke, Mission Air Defense. In 1953 he was senior air controller for HQ Task Group 7-4 based at Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was responsible for the safe and precise positioning of aircraft participating in the U.S. Atomic Bomb Tests throughout 3 Pacific operations and 2 at the Nevada test site.

He retired from the Air Force in September, 1963. Employed by the FAA for the last decade in the flight service station option. He remains a licensed pilot holding a commercial single-multi engine rating with instruments. He also holds flight instructor rating.

He married Alice Clouser in 1946 and has one son, Jeff.

List of all p51 Pilots:
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Pilot Name Biography Summary
Asa A. Adair He returned to the States in August of 1944 after participating in the invasion "D" Day. He flew P-63's, P-51's, F-80's, T-33's, F-84's, T-38's, P-47's in numerous assignments during the following twenty years in in, Japan, U.S.A. and Europe before retiring after twenty-six years of Active Duty.
John C. Anderson After P-47 transition he was assigned to the 406th Fighter Group, 512th Fighter Squadron. (E.T .0.) He flew 56 missions through January, 1945 destroying supply routes, bridges, and railroads; he also flew close support missions with the ground forces, with attacks on tanks, artillery and enemy positions.
W.B. 'Tex' Badger Eight and Ninth Air Force in WWII. B-l7's, P-51's and P-47's. Fifth Air Force in Korea, F80's and F86's. WWII and Korea, Flew 156 missions. Tactical units served in with the USAAF and USAF were: 305th BG , 368th Fighter Group, 4th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Group, 12th Fighter Wing, 506th Fighter Wing.
Robert T. (Bob) Bagby He trained in P47's at Cross City and Dale Mabry Fields, Florida and then joined the 341st FS Black Jack Squadron), 348th FG of the 5th AF in Brisbane, Australia in June 1943. Bob flew 78 combat missions in New Guinea (Port Moresby, Finchafen, Sador, Wakde and Biak) primarily as wingman to squadron CO's John Campbell and John Moore. Also privileged to fly wing to Neil Kirby on several occasions.
Frank Baker After brief stops at Stone and Atcham, England he joined the 313th Fighter Squadron of the 50th Fighter Group in France. He flew 90 missions through V.E. Day. Most of the missions were close support attacks on various ground targets with a few B-26 escort missions thrown in. All of the missions took place in eastern France and southern Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.
John M. Balason To relieve the boredom, Balason went down on the deck and blew up a locomotive he had observed at altitude. A few seconds after making his strafing pass he received a hit in his left wing tank and a fire started immediately in the cockpit. The paralyzing effect of the intense heat made climbing out of the cockpit impossible.
Albert W. Barlow, Jr. He flew 69 escort and ground support missions. Destroyed one E/A (ME-I09). Was shot down on Sept. 8, 1944, and evaded enemy ground forces for 8 days. Was picked up by an American Recon. Unit behind the German lines. Was hospitalized until Feb. 1948, when he was medically retired with the rank of Capt. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and Purple Heart.
William T. Beckler In July, 1944 Beckler exchanged his P-40 for a P-47N Thunderbolt. Missions in the Jug covered Northern Italy and Southern France. These included escorting medium bombers. The Bombers, based in Southern Italy, would be escorted to France by Thunderbolts based on Corsica. Shortly before target the Jugs would pull ahead of the bombers and bomb the enemy gun positions. Beckler's activities while participation in three major campaigns earned him the DFC, two Air Medals and two Presidential citations.
Herbert R. Benson After training in P-47 Thunderbolts at bases in North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware, he was assigned to the European Theatre of operations and joined the 48th Fighter Group 493rd Fighter Squadron at St. Trond, Belgium. After flying 44 combat missions, he was awarded the Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf clusters.
Marvin C. Bigelow Training in the Southeast Training Command with the class of 44C, he graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant single engine pilot at Marianna, Florida with the class of 44D. After checking out in the P-40 at Marianna, he transitioned in the P-47 in the Northeast Defense Command and after gunnery at Dover, Delaware was shipped on the Queen Mary to England.
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