CRESTVIEW — Even after 70 years, George Mazock still cries when he thinks about his time during World War II.
The 90-year-old Army Air Corps veteran says there were hard days during his 20 years in the military, but despite the emotional moments it was one of the best times of his life.
He says he was doing what he always wanted to do: fly.
“Dad wanted me to be a mechanic, but I wanted to fly, man, fly,” Mazock said as he showed visitors to his home his wall of honor featuring four generations of military in his family. “I wanted to fly for as long as I could make model airplanes. It’s all I wanted to do.”
At 21, just a month after World War II broke out, Mazock joined the Army Air Corps. After a short stint as an instructor he was recruited to become one of a handful of men in an experimental group taken from training straight to combat under Lt. Col. Claire Lee Chennault.
Mazock became one of the Flying Tigers, who flew only at night and under poor weather conditions with little to no equipment to guide them.
“A lot of people didn’t realize what was happening in China, but while we were there we held off 1.5 million Japanese. That would have made a difference,” Mazock said.
He said during his thousands of hours of flying he gained the name “Death Takes a Holiday Mazock” for his grace under fire.
“A lot of the men would only fly with George because they knew he would get them back,” said Mazock’s wife, Beth Mazock. “He was a talented pilot.”
Mazock said one of his most memorable missions was in 1943 when Chennault recruited him to fly over the Himalayas, or the “Hump,” into China.
“All I wanted to know was why and if I had enough gas to get back,” Mazock said. “All I was told was that I was picking up 17 very important people.”
When he landed on the speck of land described by his lieutenant, he learned who would be his passengers: 17 escaped prisoners of war who had been on the run for more than three months.
“To think what they had gone through,” Mazock said, pausing as tears filled his eyes. “To me, in one way I hated seeing them, but in another way I had to see them. No matter, we got them out.”
While loading up the men, Mazock said his fear of running out of gasoline came true. But hidden gas left over from the Doolittle Raid the year before was found and used to get Mazock and his passengers back to base.
Over the course of his career, Mazock flew 8,000 hours in a variety of aircraft, from his Flying Tiger days with the C-47 to his later years with the KC-97.
As Mazock shares his stories he never talks about wars, just situations such as the “Korean Situation” and the “Vietnam Situation.” He says he always will look back at his time in the military as a pleasant memory.
“I was one of the few that enjoyed the war,” Mazock said. “I did what I wanted to do: I flew.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Angel McCurdy at 850-315-4432 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AngelMnwfdn.