HomeLifestyleHuman InterestWorld War II Vet Celebrates 99th Birthday June 7

World War II Vet Celebrates 99th Birthday June 7

Author

Date

As he approaches his 99th birthday, Retired Lt. Col. Oscar Ray Barney Jr. spends his days reminiscing on his life.

“I remember a lot now,” said Barney, who turns 99 on June 7. Macular degeneration has been claiming his vision, so reading or other activities he used to enjoy aren’t possible these days, but he can recall many of the details from his long and illustrious life.

Barney entered the Army during World War II. With a musical background, he was first assigned to be part of the band, but that’s not where he wanted to be.

MORE: ForcesUnited Offers Programs to Help Veterans

“You can’t win a war tooting a horn,” he said.

He exaggerated the amount of time it had been since he’d played while hoping to get another assignment, and eventually he did. He went into the infantry first, then into the Army Air Forces Academy. At the time, what is now the Air Force was part of the Army, according to a history at army.mil. The Air Force became its own military branch in 1947.

At the academy, he could train to become a pilot, which took three years, or he could become a navigator.

“It was a short time for a navigator,” he said, opting to train as a navigator.

His training occurred at a couple of bases stateside.

“They gave us brand new B17s and told us we were going to fly to England,” he said.

It was nearing the end of 1944 when he boarded a plane for England via New Jersey and Labrador. Barney said they used a different aircraft after their training.

“They took the pretty one away and gave us one that was used,” he said.

He flew on missions from England to Germany. They’d fly in groups of 14 to 15 and form a box, he said. Once over Germany and under fire from the enemy, they’d drop the bombs and return to England.

Barney spent May 8, 1945, also known as VE Day, in Paris. Planes flew past the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe, and he recalls seeing “people elbow to elbow.”

At the end of the war, he helped transport prisoners of war back home.

When he returned stateside, Barney had a choice of staying in the Air Force.

“If you stayed in, you had the opportunity for additional training,” he said.

And when the military offered to let him stay in and return to his hometown of Atlanta, he decided to stay in.

He met his wife, “a beautiful young brunette,” at a supply store in East Point.

Other short stints included some time in Illinois and then to Germany, where he worked with the Berlin Airlift.

Oscar Ray Barney Jr. turns 99 June 7. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force. He is second row, second from right. The group is in front of a B17. Special photo

The Berlin Airlift was the response to the first crisis of the Cold War in June 1948 “when Soviet forces blockaded rail, road and water access to Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. The United States and United Kingdom responded by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany. The crisis ended on May 12, 1949, when Soviet forces lifted the blockade on land access to western Berlin,” according to the Office of Historian, U.S. Department of State website, history.state.gov.

His first assignment in Germany had been as a supply officer, but the Air Force needed navigators for the airlift.

“We took loads of coal and food. Somebody started dropping candy for kids,” he said.

After the Berlin Air Lift, Barney headed to Washington state. It wasn’t long before the United States was involved in the Korean War, and the Air Force needed Barney in Korea.

Before heading to Korea, however, he went through a survival course in the Sierra Mountains. On the trip out of the United States, he stopped in Los Angeles, where he phoned his wife, who told him she was pregnant.

“I said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back in time,’” he said.

He flew 25 missions in Korea.

“We had some planes with special equipment that made us look like a huge bomber,” he said. “We were dropping flares to locate targets.”

The North Koreans took notice of that, he said.

“We turned on our fancy equipment, and they turned on their fancy equipment,” he said.

He spent the next several years stateside, completing assignments and getting a college degree. Toward the end of his Air Force career, he was sent with his family to Turkey with little information.

Even when he arrived in the country, he didn’t know what his job would be or to whom he would report.

“I said ‘Where’s my commander?’ and was told ‘You can’t talk to them,’” he said.

He would later find out that he was doing logistical support for NATO.

That assignment would be one of his last as an Air Force officer. His future options would have included the Pentagon, and he didn’t want to go there.

Some of Retired Lt. Col. Oscar Ray Barney Jr.’s medals. Staff photo by Charmain Z. Brackett

Barney looks back on his Air Force career with a sense of accomplishment.

“I went in to defend our country. Hopefully, I did that. I didn’t go to be a hero,” he said.

Instead, he moved back to Georgia and settled in Atlanta. He eventually found himself working with vocational rehabilitation and that brought him to what was then Talmadge Hospital, now Augusta University Medical Center.

Barney helped people find alternative careers after they were unable to continue in the career they trained for after a disability.

MORE: Local Veteran Receives Daughters of the American Revolution’s Highest Award

He spent his last five years at Gracewood State School and Hospital doing vocational rehabilitation.

“I enjoyed all of it,” he said.

Years after he retired, he’d still hear from people who thanked him for helping them find a new career path.

He continued to travel after his retirement, taking more than 100 cruises. He said he sometimes wakes from a nap at Camellia Walk and wonders what port he’s in.

Barney said he’s looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday next year.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the Features Editor for The Augusta Press. Reach her at charmain@theaugustapress.com.

4 COMMENTS

Recent posts

Recent comments

Amanda Main on An Examined Digital Life
Christine Slendak on Opinion: Meet the Blythers
Nancy blanchard on Opinion: Meet the Blythers
Doug Herman on Faith: Hope
William Harper on Dine And Dish: Hildebrandt’s
Gwen Fulcher Young on Dine And Dish: Hildebrandt’s
Thomas Yarbrough on Duncan Will Seek Another Term
Mark Sisson on Letter to the Editor
Robert Green on Letter to the Editor
Phillip Williams on Letter to the Editor
Ayman Fadel on Letter to the Editor
Jim Sechrist on Letter to the Editor
Bill Lesshafft on Letter to the Editor
Penny Danner on Letter to the Editor
Russell Smith on Letter to the Editor
Thomas Plowden on Letter to the Editor
Juliann McCraney on Letter to the Editor
Jim Bible on Letter to the Editor
Bill Harrell on Opinion: The Little Switch
Penny Danner on Opinion: The Little Switch
Bill Harrell on Opinion: The Little Switch
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: The Little Switch
Doug Herman on Dine and Dish: Toki Jr.
Michael Meyers on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Stoney Turnage on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Amanda Morris on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Catherine McKnight on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Catherine McKnight on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Christine Slendak on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Thomas Hodges on Opinion: As Augusta Turns
Bill Lesshafft on Opinion: Do You Go to Church?
Sylvia Cooper on Keeping Up With: Venus Cain
Virgil Huston on Letter to the Editor
Robert Green on Letter to the Editor
Charles Sanford on Letter to the Editor
Ayman Fadel on Letter to the Editor
Tom Tinley on Letter to the Editor
charlie hannah on Keeping Up With: Venus Cain
Craig Spinks on Keeping Up With: Venus Cain
Craig Spinks on Keeping Up With: Venus Cain
Phillip Williams on Local High School Football Scores
Leonard Zimmerman Jr on Keen Signs Stays Prepared for Change
Pam Dunaway on Faith: The Death of Death
Betty Parker on Faith: God Bless America?
Michael Meyers on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Michael Meyers on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Catherine McKnight on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Phillip Williams on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Bill Lesshafft on Opinion: So Much to Talk About
Andrew Edmunds on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
charlie coleman on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Thomas Yarbrough on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Michael Meyers on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Juliann McCraney on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Richard Harrison on Opinion: It’s a Clean Audit
Jimmy Rivers on At Work With: George Berry
Ronnie Mullis on Millage Rates Explained
Gene Walker on Millage Rates Explained
Wilford Verneau on Faith: Cotton Candy
Simona Chilton on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
David Blevins on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
charlie coleman on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
Richard Harrison on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
Randall Sutton on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
William Brinson on Opinion: Who Foots the Bill?
Michael Parish on The Night Beat: Wild Wing Cafe
Charles Sanford on COVID-19 Cases Are on the Rise
Nancy blanchard on The Night Beat: Wild Wing Cafe
Doug Lively on Opinion: Power Moves
Edward Kruscavage on New Augusta Fire Chief Sworn In
Christine Slendak on Opinion: Power Moves
charlie coleman on New Augusta Fire Chief Sworn In
Craig Spinks on Opinion: Power Moves
Richard Ashworth on Letter to the Editor
Wilford Verneau on Faith: The Cross and a GE Clock
Doug Herman on Faith: Swift Retribution
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities
Christine Slendak on Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities
Phillip Williams on Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities
Juliann McCraney on Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities
Juliann McCraney on Opinion: A Tale of Two Cities
Richard Ashworth on Your Weekly CSRA Business Digest
Charles Sconyers on Opinion: Something to Celebrate
Wilford Verneau on Faith: Look What We Discovered!
Lydia Piper on Faith: Hari Kari
Catherine McKnight on Redrawing Georgia’s Future
Tedd Antonacci on Time To Get Back To Business
charlie coleman on Redrawing Georgia’s Future
Carolyn Vickers on Opinion: This is the Last Stop
Christine Slendak on Opinion: This is the Last Stop
Tedd Antonacci on Redrawing Georgia’s Future
April Colburn on Redrawing Georgia’s Future
Jerry Brigham on Redrawing Georgia’s Future
Sylvia Cooper on Can America Survive?
Dianne Parker-Bazen on B.J. Wood Cartoon June 14, 2021
Hubert van Tuyll on Can America Survive?
Joyce Cox on Can America Survive?
Hubert van Tuyll on Can America Survive?
Hubert van Tuyll on Can America Survive?
Hubert van Tuyll on Can America Survive?
Thomas Hodges on Can America Survive?
Dennis Perry on Faith: Hari Kari
Doug Herman on Faith: Hari Kari
Kevin and Palmer on Faith: Hari Kari
Doug Herman on Can America Survive?
Christine Slendak on Opinion: Something to Celebrate
Robyn Wittenberg Dudley on Five Generations Have Worked at Luigi’s
Robyn Wittenberg Dudley on KAMO Has 74-Year History in Augusta
Hubert van Tuyll on D-Day Remembered
John Barney on D-Day Remembered
Andrew Edmunds on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Sally McCarty on D-Day Remembered
Richard Harrison on D-Day Remembered
Craig Spinks on D-Day Remembered
charlie coleman on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Ronnie Mullis on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Dennis Perry on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Michael Thurman on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
David Dunagan on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Richard Harrison on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Ronnie Scott on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Carolyn Vickers on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Sheila Stahl on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Timothy Sheppard on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Tedd Antonacci on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Kelly Wagner on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Randall Sutton on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Christine Slendak on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Doug Herman on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Linda Sparks on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Linda C Adams on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Mark Sisson on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Charles Ellis on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Juliann McCraney on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Nancy blanchard on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Mary Harris on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Stoney Turnage on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Doug Herman on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Richard Harrison on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Kevin and Palmer on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Daniel Steele on Op-Ed: Mayor Hardie Davis
Christine Slendak on Opinion: Why Even Take the Job?
Richard Harrison on Opinion: Why Even Take the Job?
Karen Dickey on Faith: Think About This
Richard Borgatti on B.J. Wood Cartoon May 31, 2021
Richard Harrison on Faith: Think About This
Brenda Turner- Griffin on Opinion: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Susan Beckham on Faith: Think About This
Doug Herman on Faith: Think About This
Robert H. Rihl on Dine & Dish: SolFood Kitchen
Garry Stephens on Dine & Dish: Cantina Locale
Ronnie Mullis on CONVENTION OF THE STATES?
burton eichel on Dine & Dish: SolFood Kitchen
Joe Edge on Letters to the Editor
Andrew Edmunds on Letters to the Editor
David Blevins on Letters to the Editor
charlie coleman on Opinion: What is a Hero?
Doug Herman on Opinion: What is a Hero?
Ivan Bolgla on Opinion: What is a Hero?
Phillip Williams on Finding Homes for the Homeless
Juliann McCraney on Faith: The Balcony
Bill Lesshafft on Bridge Over Troubled Water
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: An Unbreakable Law
Randall Sutton on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Harold Clack on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Thomas Yarbrough on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Richard Harrison on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
William Speer on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Michael Meyers on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Trudy Edwards on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Sylvia Cooper on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Nancy blanchard on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Thomas Kilpatrick on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Christine Slendak on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Kelly Wagner on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Kelly Wagner on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Harold Clack on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Richard Harrison on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Tedd Antonacci on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Juliann McCraney on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Sheri Osburn on Opinion: He Talked To Me…
Jimmy Clark on Opinion: The Big Lie
Tedd Antonacci on Letter to the Editor
Brenda Turner- Griffin on Opinion: Why My Brother’s Keeper Matters
Amanda Main on Opinion: A Spiritual War
Michael Meyers on Opinion: Fire Chief on Fire?
Amanda Main on Opinion: A Spiritual War
charlie coleman on Opinion: Fire Chief on Fire?
charlie coleman on Opinion: Fire Chief on Fire?
Jerry Brigham on Opinion: Fire Chief on Fire?