In past years, those who attend the annual Memorial
Day service, have heard me announce the name of a friend and
Mount Ephraim resident who lost his life during the war in
Korea. Today, you will hear his story.
Samuel H. Rainey, United
States Air Force.
23 January 1933
Sam was an ordinary teenager, residing at the corner
of Fourth Ave and Black Horse Pike, where his parents, Abraham and
Margaret Rainey, operated a small grocery store.
Growing up in Mount Ephraim, Sam did the things all young
men did in small town America 1950;
go to school, tinker with cars, summer days at the pool,
hang out at Dick’s soda shop and wonder about the future.
Sam’s future however, would soon take a more serious
25 June 1950-
South Korea is invaded, and our country is involved in a
new war. World War 2 is
barely five years past and still fresh in our minds.
Talk turns to joining the Air Force.
I am enlisting and Sam wants to go too, but there’s a
catch, he is seventeen and needs parental permission.
Not to be left behind, Sam pressures his parents until his
mother grudgingly agrees to sign his enlistment release.
6 July 1950-
Sam and I are Air Force recruits on our way to San Antonio,
Texas. Basic Training is a
blur: Up at 4:30 AM,
train all day, write a letter home, lights out at 10:00 PM.
The weeks pass quickly and then graduation and our first
stripes. Advanced Training
awaits, anticipation is high.
Sam doesn’t have long to wait, for within a week his
orders are posted. Aerial
Gunnery training in Denver, Colorado. I have yet to be assigned and so, we part company for what will be
the last time.
Fast forward a year to November 1951-
Young Sam, now eighteen and wearing the wings of an Aerial
Gunner, finds himself at Yokota Air Base in Japan, flying bombing
missions to North Korea in a B-29.
The word is, thirty-five missions and back to the USA, six
months at the outside.
Night after night the bombers thunder over enemy territory.
Hours of monotony are punctuated by moments of terror.
Biting cold, snow, rain, anti-aircraft flak and MiG
December, then January 1952, the missions continue and he is now a
January 23rd, his birthday!
Sam is nineteen, a Corporal, and halfway through his
overseas tour. February
passes and March arrives, his tour is winding down.
Thirty-two missions completed.
Three more to go, then back home.
28 March 1952.
Mission number thirty-three begins like all the others.
Crews report to their planes at 7:45 PM and begin preflighting
their equipment. Two hours
later Sam finishes checking his .50 caliber machine guns and takes
his place in the B-29 “Vicious Roomer”.
It’s cold and raining again tonight.
He hopes it’s like this over North Korea, so it will be
harder for the enemy gunners to find them.
9:43 PM, Take Off.
Sam and the crew settle in for the long ride.
Twenty-two bombers lumber over the Sea of Japan toward
their targets in North Korea.
11:27 PM, someone reports “smoke and sparks coming from
number three engine!” Seconds
later explosions, and fire is now reaching back to the rear edge
of the wing! “Mayday!
Mayday!” SOS calls are
transmitted and the pilot makes a diving turn toward the nearest
are jettisoned and the command comes, “Bail Out!”
Snapping on his chute, Sam unhesitatingly dives
through the open bomb bay doors, and with four other crewmen is
swallowed up in the black overcast.
For nineteen year old Sam and three of his
crew, the war is over.
The next day, search teams find two bodies in
the frigid waters, but Sam and another crewman are never found.
They are officially declared dead on 22 April 1952.
My boyhood friend, and a Mount Ephraim son, are