Raymond J. Vogt, 87, of Westminster was one of the World War II veterans originally selected for the cooperative-sponsored Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Sadly, he was hospitalized and died shortly before the April 11 trip. The 100 veterans who made the journey paid tribute to Vogt by dedicating a South Carolina state flag in his honor at the National World War II Memorial.
In 1942, Raymond Vogt was just 18 years-old and building B-24 bombers in a Michigan factory when he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps.
“We were kind of excited because we didn’t know what we were getting into,” Vogt said of himself and his young comrades. “Very few people go through a war … we were blind to what was going to happen down the road.”
After basic training in Florida, Vogt headed to Denver where he trained as an armorer for B-24s he had once helped build. Once his training was complete, Vogt was assigned to the 5th Air Force and stationed on the island of Morotai, Indonesia.
The air base at Morotai was vital to the Allied push to retake the Philippine islands, and the Japanese knew it. From September 1944 to January 1945, Japanese pilots flew more than 82 bombing raids over the island.
“We were bombed just about every night,” Vogt said. “We bombed them during the day, and the Japanese bombed us at night.”
The worst raid, Vogt recalls was on Thanksgiving weekend, 1944, and occurred just as Vogt’s crew had finished their work. “We had one group of B-24s all loaded up, a lot of 500-pounders, and they bombed us. There were craters the size of our house,” Vogt said.
After Morotai, the Air Corps moved Vogt’s unit to Clark Field in the Philippines, and as the Allied forces closed in on the Japanese home islands, the reality of the eventual invasion began to sink in.
“Invading Japan would have been terrible. They predicted a million casualties, because the Japanese … fought to the death,” he said. “Thank God for the atomic bomb.”“You don’t pay much attention to it until you’re there,” said Vogt. “Then you find out this isn’t [a] John Wayne [movie]. This is it. This is the real thing.
Vogt was discharged in 1946 and went back to Jackson, Mich., where he married his long-time sweetheart, Carline, and took a job in an automobile plant. He later moved his family to Massachusetts where he worked as a factory foreman. He and Carline were married for 30 years before she passed away.
He married his second wife, Shirley, in 1977 and the couple eventually found their way to Westminster, where he worked as a draftsman for Oconee County for 11 years before retiring.