Colonel Floyd Harris Mason

Published 8:07 pm Saturday, July 2, 2011

Colonel Floyd Harris Mason (USAF Retired), decorated veteran of World War II and the Vietnam conflict, died on June 13, 2011, at the Hampton, Virginia Veteran’s Home at the age of 92.

During World War II, then-Captain Mason served as the Operations Officer of the 349th Squadron of the 100th Bomb Group (known as the “Bloody 100th”) of the Eighth Air Force in the European theater.  He flew 33 combat missions as a B-17 pilot, including bombing Omaha Beach on D-Day.  On July 28, 1944, his plane was shot down during a bombing run against an oil refinery at Merseberg, Germany.  He ejected and landed directly on top of a column of marching German troops.  He was transported to Stalag Luft III, a prisoner of war camp for Allied airmen near Sagan, Poland.  Shortly before his arrival, over 80 British POWs escaped it in what later became known as “the Great Escape.” Because of the disastrous results of that attempt, Captain Mason and his fellow POWs did not attempt any other escapes on a large scale, but they bedeviled their captors in other ways.  They took great delight in telling the uninformed Germans of news of Allied war progress, news that they had received over many home-made radios hidden throughout the camp.

On January 27, 1945, with the Soviet army less than twenty miles away, Captain Mason and 10,000 of his fellow POWs were force-marched eighty kilometers west to Spremberg, Germany during one of the harshest European winters on record.  On January 31, 1945, they were transported by rail to Mooseberg, Germany.  On April 29, 1945, they were liberated by elements of the 14th Armored Division of General George Patton’s Third Army.

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After the war, Colonel Mason returned to civilian life in Cincinnati, Ohio where he met his wife, the former Rowena Jane Hezlep.  He was recalled to active duty in 1951, and decided to remain in the Air Force.  He had tours of duty at Burtonwood AFB, England; Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery, Alabama; Hanscom AFB in Boston, Massachusetts; Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico; the University of Chicago; the Office of Aerospace Engineering in Washington, D.C., Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio and the United States Air Force Mission in Santiago, Chile.   He served in Vietnam from December 1967 to November 1968, flying C-123 transport aircraft.  On September 16, 1968, Colonel Mason volunteered to fly a damaged aircraft off of a landing strip whose perimeter was controlled by the enemy.   Under fire, he was able to get airborne and save the aircraft, and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

In addition to the Silver Star, during his career Colonel Mason also received the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Presidential Unit Citation with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Outstanding Unit Award with Oak Leaf Cluster, the American Theater Medal, the European Theater Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, the Vietnam Service Medal with 2 Bronze Stars and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Colonel Mason was born in Atlanta, Georgia on October 27, 1918 and is a direct descendant of Virginia’s George Mason.  He spent his formative years in Selma, Alabama where he was an All-State football player.  He attended Mississippi State University on a football scholarship but transferred to the University of Alabama after suffering a career-ending injury.  He graduated in 1941 with a B.A. in Aeronautical Engineering and later received an M.B.A. in Engineering Management from the University of Chicago.  He was predeceased by his parents George Huston Mason and Verna Ruth Harris Mason, and his brother George Huston Mason, Jr.  He is survived by his wife of nearly sixty years, Rowena Jane Mason of Chesapeake, Virginia, his son George Jeffrey Mason and his wife Sharon of Chesapeake, Virginia, daughter Melanie Mason Fraser and her husband Bill of Austin Texas, daughter Pamela Mason-Norsworthy and her husband Gray of Atlanta Georgia, and eight grandchildren.  He was devoted to his family, loved the Alabama Crimson Tide, and was an exceptional baseball coach.  He believed that a person should live his life so that the world would be a little better place because he was here.  He lived up to that belief.

Burial with full military honors will be October 12, 2011 at 11:00 at Arlington National Cemetery, the Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy officiating.  H. D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Norfolk Chapel, is handling arrangements.