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Steadfast to the End: 1st Lt. Raymond L. Knight

1Lt. Raymond L. Knight with his crew chief, Sgt. Marvin Childers. The aircraft pictured is the one Lt. Knight flew on his Medal of Honor mission in April 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1Lt. Raymond L. Knight with his crew chief, Sgt. Marvin Childers. The aircraft pictured is the one Lt. Knight flew on his Medal of Honor mission in April 1945. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1Lt. Raymond L. Knight showing combat damage from a mission he had just flown. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1Lt. Raymond L. Knight showing combat damage from a mission he had just flown. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Raymond L. Knight as an aviation cadet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Raymond L. Knight as an aviation cadet. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- 1st Lt. Raymond L. Knight exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- 1st Lt. Raymond L. Knight exhibit in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Note:  This exhibit has temporarily been removed from display.

 

In April 1945 1st Lt. Raymond Knight was a P-47 fighter-bomber pilot with the 350th Fighter Group based out of Piso, Italy. Knight had already completed more than 80 combat missions, received the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals, and been wounded twice since joining the unit in December 1944.

Although the war was nearing its end, on April 24, Knight volunteered to lead a flight of P-47s on a strafing attack against a German airfield. Ordering the other three aircraft to remain at a distance, Knight flew through dense flak alone over the field to spot the aircraft camouflaged on the ground. After rejoining the flight, he led their attack, personally destroying five aircraft.

Later that day, he again volunteered to lead an armed reconnaissance mission against the airfield at Bergamo. He again flew over alone, and his P-47 was heavily damaged. Even so, he made 10 more strafing passes over the airfield, destroying eight more aircraft while taking two more hits from flak.

The next day, Knight again returned to Bergamo. After destroying another German plane, his aircraft was seriously damaged by the heavy flak. He tried to coax his P-47 back to base, but was killed when it crashed in the Apennine Mountains. One week later, the war ended.

For his courage and gallantry during this two-day period, Knight was awarded the Medal of Honor, the last one given to a USAAF airman in World War II.

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