For all of the last seven decades, Roy Malone, of Dexter, Georgia has fought for freedoms. In the South Pacific in World War II, he flew a fighter plane fighting for our country's freedoms. Since his return to Laurens County, Malone has fought to build a better home for his family, better methods of farming, wiser soil conservation and tree farming policies and ways to improve the beauty of the Earth which he cherishes so, so much.
Roy Malone's world and his life were turned upside down on March 14, 1944. Second Lieutenant Roy Malone qualified to become a member of the Caterpillar Club. To achieve this somewhat dubious honor, Malone had to endure bailing out of his P-40 fighter plane under the most of perilous circumstances.
It was at Aloe Field on the outskirts of Victoria, Texas where Roy Malone, a Laurens County farm boy, received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Force. As he and his buddies were preparing to ship out to fighter school, the pilots decided to get in a little practice for the rigorous training which lay ahead.
"Nine of us took P-40 fighter planes up to do some simulated dog fighting," Malone recalled. Trying to position himself on the tail of another plane and at the same time trying not to allow someone else to line up on him for a shoot down, Lt. Malone got into position behind one of the planes. He was locked in on his target, moving in for the theoretical kill. That's when Lt. Frank Mesojedec slipped in and got on his tail. "He had locked in on me but was coming in too fast. As he shot past me he came too close, clipping my right wing with his left wing," Malone remembered. "That kind of thing happens in training, we weren't the only ones," the lucky pilot added.
Both planes fell into lethal spiraling spins. And, both pilots managed to bail out, though they were flying at low altitudes. "My chute opened about 200 feet off the ground and it had just enough time to open and sway back and forth once before I landed in an oak tree about 20 feet up," Malone recollected. Lt. Mesojedec was not as fortunate. His chute failed to open in time.
Battered, broken, and bruised, Malone stayed in the hospital for a week. With just one day to spare, Roy, missing one tooth and still sore from the impact, was discharged and joined his buddies as they shipped out to fighter school. It was one of the two most memorable moments Malone would experience in his long military career.
It was a day that changed his life forever. Lt. Malone came within an eyelash of being a casualty of World War II and a hero whom we honor on this Memorial Day.
Roy tried not to worry about the dangers of being a fighter pilot. "When we came back from a mission, the flight surgeon gave us two ounces of liquor to calm our nerves," he recollected. Malone, who didn't drink, began to accumulate his liquor in a bottle with his name marked on it. To relieve the stress, Malone and his buddies wrestled, played games, and exercised whenever they could.
One day an infantryman walked by Malone's tent and asked the pilot if he wanted to buy a Japanese sword. When Roy responded that he didn't have any cash, the soldier wondered if Malone would be interested in swapping some of his aerial combat liquor for his sword. Malone agreed. The deal was done. Today, that sword is among a large collection of memorabilia which has been lovingly curated by Malone's wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Gail Poole.
Malone has seen dying and death in war time, from high above to down low skimming the deck over places like Nagasaki, Japan, where he photographed the total inhalation of the second atomic bomb. He takes no glorious pride in the destruction which his P-51 fighter reeked upon the Japanese people and their infrastructure, but he makes no apologies for it was his mission, a mission he was thoroughly trained to do.
August 6, 1945 was one of those days Roy Malone which will never forget, although at the time, he didn't realize that America had dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
"Before we were sent up there on a flight, we were told to stay away from a particular point by 75 to 100 miles," Malone recalled. A few hours after the night time explosion, Malone was flying in the Hiroshima sector and observed the mushroom cloud dissipating into the stratosphere as a new era in the history of the world dawned.
Two days after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Malone was ordered to fly over the city at low levels to take pictures of the results of the war ending attack. It would be the second most memorable day of Roy Malone's career as an aviator.
"I took a wing man with me," said Malone, who was a wing leader at the time. "Although there was no cease fire in effect at the time, we were ordered not to fire at anyone unless fired upon first," he added.
"About 15 to 20 miles out, I got down on the deck," Malone recalled. He flew 200 feet above the obliterated countryside, snapping photographs with his automatic K-34 camera as his plane screamed just above what used to be tree tops and buildings.
"There wasn't anything there but dust. Every now and then you would see the hull of a building," said Malone, who reported that he never saw any sign of human life at all.
On the left was a mountain and on the right was a place where ships were moored. Malone flew his plane toward the open sea just in case he was fired upon. Pilots preferred head toward the sanctuary of the ocean where they could be rescued by friendly naval forces if they were shot down.
"When I snapped a series of pictures, I dropped down near the water and went around the back side of that mountain, which had a sheer drop into the sea. Then I saw a cotton pickin' heavy cruiser. I didn't know it was there because it was well camouflaged," Malone remembered.
"I saw Japanese running for their guns and said to my self, 'Dang, I better do something,'" Malone chuckled. Deciding that discretion is really the better part of valor, Malone wheeled his P-51, which he dubbed the "Georgia Rebel," around and raced to the city side of the mountain, which had been nearly sheered away by the atomic bomb blast.
At first, Malone worried about the dangers of radiation, but was assured that he was never in any real danger. He never thought for a moment that his commanders would put him in a perilous position like that.
The two bombs brought about a quick end to the war, which was projected to last up to several more years against determined defenders of the island country of Japan. In the months leading up to the detonations, Malone and his squadron accompanied B-25 and B-29 bombers on raids on important Japanese targets.
"There was no contest as they were saving their fighters for kamikaze suicide planes," Malone remembered. The former pilot commented that during some of those raids, 80 to 90 thousand people were killed from bomb blasts and the resulting rapidly spreading infernos every single night. And, he has his own original pictures to prove it.
"It was terrible. Golly! When I think that could happen over here in some future war, it's frightening," lamented Malone.
At the end of the war, Roy had to make a decision. While he was in the service, Roy had been making payments on a piece of land. Having a desire to farm, unlike his four brothers, Roy chose to come back to Dexter to resume life as a farmer and foregoing a three-year hitch in the Army Air Force, or so he thought.
After he retired from active duty, Roy Malone joined the reserves. He fondly remembered going over to Dobbins Air Force Base from Athens, where he was attending the University of Georgia. Roy always enjoyed flying an old P-51 back home to Dexter just to get in his minimum hours of flying time.
During his time as a pilot in the Pacific, Roy and his fellow pilots lived mostly in tents. Only once or twice did they ever get to sleep in a real building. "We never got time off. We lived in tents and had to be ready any minute to go on another mission," Malone recalled. "At Ie Shima, we dug fox holes next to our tents so that if there was a bomb strike at night, we could dive in them," he said.
"Over there you could save money. We had no expenses and nowhere to spend our paychecks," Roy recalled. To compensate for the lack of decent quarters and less than decent food, Roy was given separation pay of slightly more than $8,000.00. The check came as a big surprise to Roy, who knew exactly what he wanted to do with the money, pay some of his debts off and buy a little more land.
Turns out, he did a lot of both. Roy came home to Dexter and began farming, married Sarah Weaver and started a family, which included his children, James, Pat, Pam Mullis and Gail Poole. And, he remained in the Air Force, serving for a total of roughly thirty years. He retired as Lt. Colonel, serving as an Air Force Reserve instructor and as an advisor to cadets of the United States Air Force Academy. His awards and decorations are too numerous to mention here.
"I think right now we are in good shape against China, Russia and emerging nations which could show hostility," commented Malone on the present state of the military.
"I would hope that our academies will be seeking out, finding and getting the very best brains in the country, and that our staff people and our Congress will fund the kind of effort that will keep us ahead of our adversaries," wishes Malone for the future of American military readiness.
"We sit here with the best country in the world, with our abundant resources and with our vibrant people. And, our way of life is coveted by the whole world. Some of them covet us because they would like to come here and live with us. Some of them covet us because they hate our guts and they would like to take what is ours," proclaimed Malone.
"If we don't stay strong and vigilant, we are going to lose it down the road," Malone warns. He also hopes that there will be the will on the part of the people to perform when necessary to protect our freedoms.
"We had patriots who were willing to defend and fight for our freedoms, and to defend those freedoms which were gained and preserve them," the former fighter pilot maintains. "We would like to think that we have the talent, the resources and the will to defend those freedoms. If we don't, we will be in a tough situation," he claims.
Today, at the age of 91, Roy Malone, a veteran of three war time eras, enjoys the freedoms that he and millions of others fought for. On each Memorial Day, he pauses to think about the hundreds of thousands of American military personnel who have given the the last true measure of devotion by sacrificing their lives for their country.
And on most days, you will find Roy somewhere on his Goose Hollow farm in the Dexter suburb of Springhaven, where he has lived the ultimate American dream for most of the last seven decades.
As he rides through the farm checking on his crops and trees, Roy Malone's thoughts sometime go back to his most everlasting memory of the war on that March day in 1944, when his life was spared and his buddy Frank Mesojedec didn't make it.
Roy Malone was one of the lucky ones. He made it home and has enjoyed a most wonderful life. And, we are all lucky that he did.