James F. Mahon, WWII medal recipient

James F. Mahon
James F. Mahon
Posted: July 21, 2014

On Aug. 3, 1944, the B-17 bomber on which James F. Mahon was the navigator crash-landed in Switzerland.

Interned by Swiss authorities, he escaped from a camp for combatants on New Year's Eve 1944 and, with the help of French Resistance forces, found an American unit and returned to duty.

For that effort, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff, presented him and seven others each with a Prisoner of War Medal at a Pentagon ceremony April 30, 2014.

"He felt it was a great honor to be there, to be recognized," son Joseph said. "He felt a great sense of camaraderie with the others who were able to be there."

On Wednesday, July 16, Mr. Mahon, 91, a former electrical sales engineer for Public Service Electric & Gas Co., died at a rehabilitation center in Manchester, N.H., where he had lived since 2010.

He lived in Collingswood from the early 1950s until 1967 and in Haddonfield until 2009.

In 1944, Mr. Mahon's B-17 was returning to its base in Foggia, Italy, from a bombing run over Fredrichshafen in southern Germany, his son said.

Damaged by Nazi antiaircraft fire over Germany, the plane managed to fly into Swiss airspace before crash landing, without fatalities.

Because he tried to escape from a more lenient Swiss camp, Mr. Mahon was sent to the notorious Wauwilermoos camp outside Lucerne, his son said.

A website ( http://swissinternees.tripod.com) reports that the camp was run by a Nazi sympathizer where "internees lacked medical care, proper nutrition or access to any mail or aid parcels."

A 1995 paperback, published by Sky & Sage Books, was titled Black Hole of Wauwilermoos: An Airman's Story.

At the Pentagon ceremony in April, all eight of the men honored with the Prisoner of War Medal were survivors of Wauwilermoos.

Mr. Mahon had first been imprisoned at a camp outside Davos, then at Wauwilermoos because of his escape attempt. Returned to Davos, he successfully escaped, his son said.

Born in Hoboken, Mr. Mahon graduated from St. Peter's Preparatory School in Jersey City, studied at St. Peter's University there, before joining the Army Air Corps.

After the war, he earned his bachelor's at St. Peter's University and a master's at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

He began his PSE&G career in the late 1940s and retired in 1987.

Mr. Mahon taught an evening professional engineering course at Rutgers-Camden from the late 1960s into the early 1980s, his son said.

He was a member of Rotary International.

Besides son Joseph, Mr. Mahon is survived by sons James F. Jr., John, and Patrick; 13 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, died in 2009.

A visitation was set from 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, July 21, at the Kain-Murphy Funeral Home, 15 West End Ave., Haddonfield, with a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at Christ the King Church, 200 Windsor Ave., Haddonfield, with burial in Holy Cross Cemetery, North Arlington.

Donations may be sent to Interfaith Caregivers of Haddonfield at www.ifchaddons.org.

Condolences may be offered to the family at http://kainmurphy.com.


wnaedele@phillynews.com

610-313-8134 @WNaedele

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