Pilot gives 92-year-old veteran one last flight
Nearly 70 years since his combat days, Ray Yohe climbed into the cockpit of a restored World War II plane for one more hurrah.
The 92-year-old decorated Air Force fighter pilot had been longing to fly one more time. Wednesday afternoon, family friend Gary Johnson, from Sage, and Doug Medore, a Hemet pilot, helped him climb into an AT-6 Texan trainer at Hemet-Ryan Airport.
Yohe sat in the back of the two-seat propeller plane and occasionally held the stick during the 30-minute flight. With the San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop, they made low-hanging fly-bys over the runway and sharp turns over the city.
"Just like old times," Yohe said.
Medore, 47, is a former F-18 pilot who now flies his fathers plane out of Hemet and runs a hobby shop in San Jacinto. When he heard through a mutual friend that the Johnsons were trying to help Yohe fulfill his wish, he said hed be glad to take him up if they paid for fuel.
The frail but feisty 5-foot-7 Yohe needed help from a forklift to climb into the plane. Once inside, he sat low in his seat, headphones over a backward ball cap that said "Retired Air Force."
The flight brought back memories of when Yohe, based in England, fought the Germans in the early 1940s.
Yohe still recalls intricate details of enlisting with the Army Air Force in 1941, and he tells salty tales about his combat days as an ace pilot.
During the war, Yohe said, he was part of the Eighth Air Force and the 62nd Fighter Squadron, tasked with protecting B-17 and B-24 bombers during missions over Germany and France.
"The only trouble was, the Luftwaffe kept trying to shoot them down," Yohe said.
Yohe said he shot down 17 enemy planes over 62 missions during the war. He said he was honored for valor after his wing was struck and he maneuvered to continue to shoot two more enemy planes.
"On one day I shot down seven planes and they made me a major. That was a good day," Yohe said. "I figured if I shot Hitler, maybe theyd make me a general."
Yohe also was wounded twice. He was shot in the head but was able to land safely. On his 62nd and final mission, he said, he was shot through the hip and the bullet traveled to strike his other side.
After being hit, he radioed "Rascal, Rascal," and a fellow pilot pointed his wing toward England, where Yohe was able to crash land without lowering his landing gear.
Though he flew until the end of the war, he said, he never faced combat again, falling short of his 65-mission goal.
After finishing his military service, Yohe worked various manufacturing jobs and in a metal stamping business, which is where he met Johnson.
He married several times, but never had children. He moved to Hemet 10 years ago when he reconnected with the Johnsons.
"Flying is the greatest thing to do in this world," Yohe said. "I never expected to fly again."
Nearly 70 years since his combat days, Ray Yohe climbed into the cockpit of a restored World War II plane for one more hurrah. The 92-year-old decorated Air Force fighter pilot had been longing to fly one more time. Wednesday afternoon, family friend Gary Johnson, from Sage, and Doug Medore, a Hemet pilot, helped him climb into an AT-6 Texan trainer at Hemet-Ryan Airport.