Lowcountry WWII combat pilot, 97, reflects on war, service, Pearl Harbor

Lowcountry WWII combat pilot, 97, reflects on war, service, Pearl Harbor (WCIV)

Memory serves Oscar Fitzhenry well.

“I remember very distinctly on the radio we heard the news,” the 97-year-old World War II veteran said. “The announcement from the radio stating that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.”

His memory now paints a picture of his time flying combat missions in World War II.

“I reported about two weeks after Pearl Harbor,” he said. “I quit a 50-cent an hour slaughterhouse clean up job and put on the military uniform.”

Fitzhenry spent 22 years as a pilot in the Air Force, flying 58 combat missions by the time he was 22 years old, and flying 64 missions overall. In October, he flew to the Air Force Academy in Colorado to donate a painting he had commissioned, which he called The Raid.

“Archive of the B-24’s, the longest battle of World War Two,” he said of the painting. He noted that not a drop of blood was shed by anyone in his squadron for the battle depicted in the painting, which was over Guadalcanal during the Pacific Campaign.

“He was extremely excited,” said Linda Meyer, who helps care for Fitzhenry in his Isle of Palms home. “It was a little hard for him. He has PTSD and it brought back some bad memories. He felt very privileged to donate the painting. He really did. And they felt privileged to receive it.”

A new memory that serves him well, in much the same way he served his country.

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