This is the crew of "Hotfoot Two," a B-17 bomber that flew as part of the 8th Air Force in Europe during the Second World War. Front row, from left: Sgt. Laverne Pliler of Longview, Texas, tail gunner; Sgt. Kelly O'Keefe of Colville, Wash., waist-gunner; Sgt. Edward Owens of Taylor Ridge, Ill., ball turret gunner; and Sgt. Seaton Woodley Jr. of Norfolk, Va., waist-gunner. Back row, from left: Sgt. Lloyd Caubble of Wayne, Ark., radioman; 1st. Lt. Earl Miller of Chrisney, Ind., pilot; 1st Lt. Robert Snyder of Scranton, Pa., co-pilot; 1st Lt. William Troutman of Selings Grove, Pa., navigator; 1st Lt. Clayton Raynes of Columbus, Ohio, bombardier; and Sgt. William Rae of Brooklyn, N.Y., engineer.
Clayton Raynes of La Casa mobile home park in North Port is pictured as a 22-year-old second lieutenant when he graduated from flight school in 1943 during World War II.
SUN PHOTO BY MARY AUENSON
Clayton Raynes holds a shadow box full of his World War II military medals, bars and patches that hangs on his office wall in La Casa mobile home park in North Port. At the top left in the box is the Distinguished Flying Cross, just below the Medal of Honor for surviving 25 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe a lifetime ago.
On an overcast April night in 1943, a lone B-17 bomber dubbed “Hotfoot Two” flew from Newfoundland to Greenland on its way to Scotland, Ireland, England and the war zone in Europe. The “Flying Fortress” was destined for the 8th Air Force, set to became one of the thousands of American four-engine, heavy bombers to give Hitler a knockout punch.
“I almost never saw the Atlantic Ocean during all of the flight over,” Clayton Raynes, of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, recalled 70 years later. “We had clouds above us and below us most of the way. It was Lindbergh all over again. The first ground we saw was the green grass of Ireland. Nothing looked more beautiful.”
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