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Veterans reunite after 72 years at Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum

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Paul G. Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM) hosted a reunion of two WWII veterans who met for the first time since the end of the war (72 years ago!), on Tuesday, Oct. 31.The veterans, U.S. Navy Commander Robert H. Turnell and Lt. Ray H. Owen, flew the F6F Hellcat together during WWII 1944-1945.

How the Oct. 31 Reunion Came About

  1. Vulcan Productions and NBC Learn produced a 20-part series called the Chronicles of Courage - the largest online archive of oral histories on war and aviation ever created.
  2. The two veterans, U.S. Navy Commander Robert (Bob) H. Turnell and Lt. Ray H. Owen, are reconnecting after Lt. Ray H. Owen’s son saw Commander Turnell in footage from Chronicles of Courage, which led him to contact FHCAM.
  3. After speaking with both the families, FHCAM has arranged to bring these two veterans together for a historic reunion at their hangar in Everett.
  4. Cory Graff, military aviation expert and curator at FHCAM will lead the veterans and their families on a private tour of the museum, including an F6F Hellcat the same model the men flew during World War.

Overview of the Veterans Service

Robert H. Turnell (Bob) – U.S. Navy Commander

Robert H. Turnell (Bob) joined the United States Navy in August 1942 when he was 18 years old. Before active duty, Owen learned to fly in a Civilian Pilot Training Program at Schweitzer’s flying service in Yakima, WA. On March 1, 1944, Turnell reported to Atlantic City, where he joined the Navy Fighter Squadron VF-81. This is where he met Ray H. Owen and began flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat. In October 1944, Turnell deployed to combat on board the U.S.S WASP (CV-18) apart of the Fighting Squadron 81 that called themselves “The Freelancers.” While on the U.S.S WASP, Turnell flew 38 missions. During his Navy career, Turnell flew the following aircrafts: Bearcat, Corsair, F6F Hellcat, Piper Cub, SNJ, Stearman, The Avenger and various other trainers.

Ray H. Owen – U.S. Navy Lieutenant

Ray H. Owen joined the United States Navy on August 3, 1942. Upon completion of flying instruction in Asheville, North Carolina, Owen went to Athens, Georgia where he continued ground school at the University of Georgia. Upon completion of training, in early March 1944, Owen went to Glenview, IL, for carrier qualification training. After qualification and a brief leave, Owen proceeded to the Navy Fighter Squadron VF- 81, where he met Commander Turnell. This was his indoctrination and first flight in a Grumman F6F Hellcat. Between November of 1944 and January of 1945, Owen’s squadron made several strikes in the Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa, along with strike and search missions in the South China Sea, including Hong Kong and Canton, China.

History of FHCAM’s F6F Hellcat:

FHCAM acquired this rare F6F Hellcat in December 2000. The U.S. Navy’s Hellcat dominated the skies over the Pacific during World War II. It was nicknamed the “Aluminum Tank” because it could absorb unbelievable punishment and still bring a pilot back to his carrier. The F6F Hellcat was designed to outperform the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero.” By the end of the war, the Hellcat had destroyed over 5,000 Japanese aircraft in the air. There were 12,275 Hellcats deployed during World War II.

About Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM)

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Founded by Paul G. Allen, the Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Collection features rare treasures of military aviation – a testament to the era’s engineering skill and humanity’s spirit during the world conflicts of the 20th century. Mr. Allen's passion for aviation and history, and his awareness of the increasing rarity of original WWII aircraft, motivated him to restore these artifacts to the highest standard of authenticity and share them with the public. The museum’s collection includes military aircraft, armored vehicles and other artifacts from the United States, Britain, Germany, Soviet Union and Japan. Visitors can walk among these meticulously restored artifacts at the museum and watch them return to the sky at our events.

Paine Field
3407 109th Street SW
Everett, WA 098204
FHCAM Office: (206) 342-4242

Museum Hours: TUE-SUN 10am-5pm, Closed on Mondays
Memorial Day to Labor Day Hours: MON-SUN 10am-5pm

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