A 90-year-old World War II veteran from Vista is on a mission to honor those he flew with during the war.
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Paul Bonilla hopes to get through layers of red tape and bureaucracy to fulfill a dying man's effort.
"I'm not a hero. The heroes are the ones who didn't come back," said Bonilla as he continues the effort to get the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal. "We saved a U.S. submarine."
In 1943, Bonilla and pilot Bill McCarthy were over Wake Island in the North Pacific Ocean. A Japanese artillery unit was targeting the submarine until McCarthy blew the Japanese unit. On the way back to the USS Lexington, Bonilla said the engine stopped and the plane went into the water.
"That's when I managed to get to Bill and pull him up, otherwise he would have drowned," Bonilla said.
Years later, Mack McMakin, the squadron leader who saw the whole incident unfold, said Bonilla deserved the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. McMakin tried to get Bonilla the medal he deserved but died trying.
Bonilla said he has not been able to get through the levels of staffers in Washington and the Navy to get through to contact anyone.
"I want to get some credit for my pilot who earned it," he said.
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