East Texas World War II veterans to be honored at air show

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Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 3:00 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2021 at 9:14 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Two special guests apart of the Tyler Rose City Airfest will be two World War II veterans.

The two to be honored at the air show are Colonel Joe McPhail of Grand Saline Texas and Ralph Graham of Athens. Both veterans are 99 years old and served in World War II.

McPhail was a member of the Marines, and Graham was a member of the Air Force. McPhail earned his private pilot license in Tyler Pounds Field and several months afterward, he was called into the war. McPhail had a decorated career as a Marine. He flew 240 combat missions and earned 11 air medals including two distinguished flying crosses.

“I flew 25 missions and they gave me a distinguished flying cross, but then the second distinguished flying cross was a special mission supporting the troops doing close air support they called it,” said McPhail.

Graham, unlike McPhail, started in the army. After Pearl Harbor, Graham, who is an Athens native, made a switch to the Air Force flying planes.

“After the war started they needed more people in the Air Force and they put up a bulletin on the bulletin board and said anyone who cares to try to go sign up to go train for pilots and navigators and all that you can,” said Graham.

Graham served in the rest of the war and flew 33 missions as well as flying in the Battle of the Bulge. He wrote a book called 12 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Ghost Plane at The Battle of the Bulge, which describes his experiences during the battle.

“Most of the times, we were bombing through the clouds we had what we called a “Mickey set” it would show an image of what was on the ground and they would bomb on that and what we called blanket bombing the whole fleet would drop their bombs at the same time,” said Graham.

Both flew serval missions during the war and are excited to see some of the planes they flew in the air show. They will be take part in the air show on Friday as passengers which starts at 6 p.m.

Watch both full interviews with both WWII Veterans below:

WWII Air Force Veteran - Ralph Graham's Full Interview
WWII Marine Veteran - Colonel Joe McPhail - Tyler Rose City Airfest

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