Standing in the Lynn offices of Congressman John Tierney, surrounded by friends and family on Monday morning, the battle scars that Mitchell Ramonas suffered nearly 70 years ago in Germany might’ve seemed nothing more than a distant memory, except that those memories are as fresh in Mitchell’s mind now as they were when he experienced them.
On Monday morning a grateful nation and community finally showed its thanks and respect for the sacrifices Ramonas made all of those years ago, as the 90-year old veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps was presented with the Purple Heart and five other medals he earned during his service in World War 2.
“I just appreciate everything that everyone has done for me,” said Ramonas after being presented with a display case containing all six medals by U.S, Congressman John Tierney. “It’s nice that everyone is making such a big fuss about this.”
Ramonas, who served as a Ball Turret Gunner on the B-24 ‘Maid of Orleans,’ was based out of Seething Airfield in England as part of the 448th Bomb Group, when his plane was shot down over Germany on March 23, 1944.
Ramonas, who was unconscious when the plane was hit, was pulled from his turret station by a fellow airman on the plane, who then threw Ramonas from the plane and deployed his parachute. He awoke as he floated to the ground in the middle of a field on a farm in Germany.
“The German civilians were ready to kill me,” recalled the feisty gunner. Instead he was paraded through the town, while German civilians threw rocks and stones at him, and locked up in the local jail until he could be handed over to the Nazis.
Ramonas spent the next 14 months as a prisoner of war in German Stalag 1.
Ramonas, who was described by Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano as “one of our outspoken residents in Ward 6,” has long been known in the city as one of Lynn’s proudest World War 2 veterans. However, it was not until a few months ago that city officials, and those at the federal level, became aware that he had never been presented with his medals.
“He came into the office one day and he had paperwork stating that he was entitled to the Purple Heart, but he said he’d never received the medal,” explained Executive Assistant of Veterans Services Mary Cronin. “I told him we’d look into it for him.”
From there, Cronin contacted Rep. Tierney’s office, which filed a Request for Congressional Inquiry with the Department of Defense, and after about a month of research, the Congressman’s office was informed that not only did Ramonas earn and never receive the Purple Heart, but he had also earned five other medals for his service, including the Prisoner of War Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Europeans African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
“Thank you for your service,” said Tierney, as he presented Ramonas with the medals.
According to Tierney, though these types of bureaucratic mistakes are not common, “we have received some of these types of requests over the years,” and Tierney who added that his office is always willing to help in such situations.
Mitchell Ramonas’ son Richard and daughter Michelle, noted that he rarely spoke of his experiences in the war while they were growing up. However, over the last few years, following the passing of their mother, Mitchell has opened up more about his service in the war and what he was exposed to.
“We never really knew any of this about him when we were kids,” said Richard, who has visited Germany in recent years to see the places his father fought. “We knew he had been a prisoner of war, and we knew that he would (sometimes) wake up talking to himself, but that was about it.”
Added Michelle, who recently visited the site where Seething Airfield once stood, she and their family have gained a great deal more understanding about their father as they have learned about his experiences in the war.