Knight was part of elite radar group


Ray Knight was a master sergeant in the Army Air Force and served two years during World War II as a radar technician. 

While working in San Antonio, Knight, 98, tried to join the Air Force because he knew he would get drafted. But he needed a release from his commanding officer in the Signal Corps, and the officer refused to release Knight and a few others because he wanted them to be field engineers. So he tried to join the Navy, but he didn’t weigh enough at only 115 pounds.

“They said, ‘Go eat some nanners and drink some sweet milk,’” Knight recalled with a laugh.

Eventually while he was in ground radar school in Lexington, Ky., he was drafted into the Army Air Force. Knight was in an outfit expected to go to the South Pacific and trained for it by doing nighttime marches through the Everglades in South Florida. But when they went to leave, they were sent to New York, where they instead boarded a ship heading to England and landed in Liverpool.

From Liverpool they traveled to Bury St. Edmunds, which is about 80 miles northeast of London, before getting established near Horham. Knight said one night a German pilot dropped five bombs outside the gate of his base, but the bombs didn’t do any damage to the base.

“I was wondering if I ought to be in the floor or in the bed because I knew I didn’t have time to make it to a bomb shelter. But that didn’t do us any damage; I think they killed a cow,” he said.

He spent two years in England from 1943 to 1945 and said just about every night they would check for Germans trying to destroy their base, but none ever came through apart from the one bombing. Radar technicians weren’t allowed to fly over enemy territory because if they were captured, they knew too much, according to Knight.

Knight’s outfit, the 95th Bombardment Group, received three Distinguished Unit Citations, the only group of the Eighth Air Force to do so with the highest total claims of enemy aircraft destroyed at 425.

Knight really enjoyed getting to see the sights and took a lot of pictures during his journeys through England. He would get two-day passes every two weeks and said he usually ended up going to London. He said most of the historic city was leveled from German bombings. After seeing everything he thought he should see in London, he started getting on a train to Birmingham and from there visited William Shakespeare’s home and a couple of castles. He got a one-week furlough each year and got to visit Scotland both times. 

Following the capture of Frankfurt, Knight was among the soldiers who went there and got to see the damage caused by American bombs on the railroads and airfields. He said he was in San Antonio when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, and he got out of the service the first chance he got.

Knight was already married before going to war to Sue Campbell and said while he missed his family they stayed so busy there wasn’t much time to dwell on anything.

Upon returning from the war, Knight opened a TV sales and repair service, Knight’s Radio and Electronics, on Broad Street. The Columbia High School graduate remains a Columbia resident and active in the community. 

Pictured Above: Ray Knight, 98, shows his Army Air Force uniform from World War II. Inset, Knight is seen in a 1944 clipping from The Columbian-Progress. The Columbia resident spent two years overseas in England as a radar technician. | Photo by Joshua Campbell