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The Suburbanite
  • WWII: Then and Now: Ralph Lewton served throughout Europe

  • Italy is most vivid in the mind of Ralph Lewton of Perry Township when he remembers serving throughout North Africa and Europe during World War II.

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  • Italy is most vivid in the mind of Ralph Lewton of Perry Township when he remembers serving throughout North Africa and Europe during World War II.
    “Our airfield was across the river from the Tower of Pisa,” recalled Lewton, who was an aircraft mechanic in the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945. “Our barracks was right across the street from the tower. I climbed that tower.”
    One other memory from a pair of military stops Lewton made in Italy are days in March of 1944.
    “We saw Mount Vesuvius erupt. It started spitting and two days later it blew up.”
    LEAVING FOR WAR
    Lewton enlisted in January of 1942 after graduating from Lisbon High School. His Army Air Corps unit, the 526th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group, was attached to the 12th Air Force in Africa and Italy and the 9th Air Force in Germany.
    “We got our planes in North Africa,” he remembered.
    Lewton and his fellow mechanics would keep those planes — the A-36 and the P-47 — flying and fighting through eight campaigns.
    “They called the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group ‘The Invaders,’ ” Lewton said. “We were tactical support for the front lines.”
    Lewton’s tour of duty was through Africa, into Sicily, over to Italy, to Corsica, back to Italy, on to France and finishing in Germany.
    Hanging on the walls of Lewton’s home are photos of the planes he worked on between missions. Sitting nearby are models of those planes that he once put together.
    “Some of them got pretty shot up,” he said, his gaze far away, as if focused on those former warplanes and not the models.
    BACK HOME
    “After the war was over we couldn’t get transportation back right away,” said Lewton. “I was in southern Germany, then France.”
    Finally, Lewton flew from France to Boston, and was discharged in October of 1945.
    Lewton got married in 1946 to Mary Karr. They have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Together they raised two sons, Tim and Greg, and a daughter, Kim.
    A carpenter after the war, Lewton worked for contractors for more than 40 years. He retired in 1986.
    “I’ve got a bunch of shop tools and made some furniture,” he recalled of his early retirement years. “I’ve got stuff all over the house and the kids have got some stuff, and the grandkids have got some stuff,” he added with a smile. “I didn’t keep track of it.”
    In the basement of his home, which he built himself, are framed displays of his military honors and papers that provide evidence of his service in the Air Corps during World War II.
    “I remember it,” he said. “We traveled. I got to see a lot of things over there. And, I came back in one piece. That’s the main thing.”
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