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World War II Veteran honored for last combat mission

World War II Veteran honored for last combat mission
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-27 13:07:23-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A history-maker was honored in a special way Saturday afternoon, at the 390th Memorial Museum.

Colonel Richard Bushong was a bomber pilot in World World II and while he may be 98 years old, he’s young at heart.

He says he’s happy to share his story of courage, honor, and victory.

“It was a lot of stress you know. I never came home without holes in the airplane. Always had holes,” he told KGUN9.

Col. Bushong was 19 when he started pilot training and was 21 when he completed his last mission in Germany on April 13, 1944. He recalls it as a harrowing one.

“I had two oil coolers hit by flak. Put a big hole in them so the oil was gushing out. It had been leaking for three-and-a-half hours, but still running,” added the Col.

He says, somehow, he was never shot down.

“Just luck...a lot of luck,” he said.

Though Col. Bushong takes luck to new heights.

“The crew that I trained with, and went over with, was shot down on their first mission. I was sick and they put me in the hospital, so my crew went on without me and got shot down,” he told KGUN9.

His luck doesn’t stop there. He says all of his planes were shot down after he flew them.

“Two of the seven, I flew a mission and got out of the airplane and the next mission, it was shot down,” said Col. Bushong.

He completed 28 missions over Germany during World War II.

The Colonel was presented with a commemorative Distinguished Flying Cross, in honor of the one he received in 1944. He was also given artwork by aviation artist John Mollison, depicting ‘Belle O’ the Brawl’---the plane he flew during his last mission.

“My last combat was in Vietnam in 1971, and I was 48 years old. We had little bad guys all around us and they were lobbing rockets into our base---once or twice a week,” he added.

Regardless of what came his way he got through it, because of the love for his country and his love of flying.

“You know...I guess I’m a survivor,” he told KGUN9.