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September 27. 2012 9:41PM

World War II vet tells war tales at ceremony


Nashua resident Martin Mehron, center, is all smiles at a presentation of his World War II medals by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Navy Senior Chief Dan Clark. (Mark Hayward/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — New Year's Eve, 1944, a Navy B-24 crashed just shy of its runway in the Philippines, putting an end to the combat duties of Martin Mehron.

Sixty-eight years later, the Nashua resident regaled U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., her staff and reporters with war stories from the South Pacific, as the New Hampshire senator presented him with medals for his service.

“I don't feel I'm getting honored personally,” a spry Mehron, 89, said during the brief ceremony. “This is for my squadron, particularly the ones who got killed.”

A New Jersey native, Mehron entered the Navy at the age of 19 in 1942. Having worked in an electronics company, he was funneled into radar work.

At that point, radar was top secret, and Mehron couldn't even mouth the word on his Navy base.

Mehron operated radar in B-24s, which flew patrol missions in the South Pacific. Five of the Navy's eight flying aces were in his squadron, and it led Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous return to the Philippines, he said.

“That was the darndest sight you've ever seen. You're in the airplane, you look and you're seeing hundreds of thousands of ships sailing into the Philippines,” Mehron said.

At the radar screen, Mehron found Japanese ships and directed the pilot on bombing runs.

But it was an accident on New Year's Eve that ended his combat career. His plane ran out of fuel and crashed into a bay, killing the copilot.

Mehron said he woke the next day to see people kneeling around his hospital bed. Then he realized his bed was placed in a church and services were going on around him.

Later, an officer said Mehron had been listed as dead.

A very alive Mehron went on to sire five children. He moved to Nashua to take a job with Sanders, the forerunner of BAE Systems. On Thursday, he was awarded the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, the Navy Discharge Button and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin (Ruptured Duck).

“These awards are by no means minor; they are quite high and well-deserved,” said Navy Senior Chief Dan Clark.

In her remarks, Shaheen said presenting World War II medals and meeting members of the Greatest Generations is one of the highlights of her job as a senator.

Mehron initially contacted Shaheen looking for a Purple Heart, said Bethany Yurek, who handles constituent requests for Shaheen and worked with Mehron.

He wasn't eligible because his injuries were not at the hands of the enemy, she said. But the office arranged the presentation of the medals.

Yurek said sometimes medals are pretty straightforward, especially if they're included in discharge papers. If not, the Pentagon is very careful.

“They verify everything very carefully,” she said, “they do not hand these things out lightly.”

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.

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