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These are items of interest to military reunions including reunions that have already happened so others can find their own reunion groups. If you have military reunion news, e-mail us. If you are listing your reunion, send the reunion name, date and place and the name, address, phone and contact person's e-mail address.

 

Reunion of the century
by Colin D. Heaton
Fifty-four years after the guns fell silent, the last Luftwaffe reunion of the last century was held at Geisenheim, Germany. The bi-annual gathering of the Gemeinschaft der Jagdflieger (Community of Fighter Pilots) was joined by the American Fighter Pilots Association, members of the modern German Luftwaffe and official contingents from Italy, Belgium, Russia, Czech Republic, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and France.

All politics and past grievances were set aside. Only comradeship and goodwill was felt among the members as old friends met and established new friendships.

Reunion days
The first day of the Treffen (meeting) guests enjoyed a semi-formal dinner. The second day there was a guided tour of Geisenheim's historic sites including the Jagdflieger Denkmal (Fighter Pilots Monument) dedicated to those fallen in war and peace. A ceremony included reading names of those who died since the previous Treffen. As the reading began, the sky clouded over and the wind billowed flags mounted at the base of the monument as if saluting the deceased. Wreaths of honor were laid in solemn tribute. A wine reception at the Rathaus (town hall) was hosted by the Burgermeister (Mayor). The second evening's formal festivities included some four hundred persons. Traditional offerings of friendship and speeches of mutual respect were made.

A current hero
A special award was presented to Hauptmann (Captain) Stefan Strittner, a young Tornado photo reconnaissance pilot, who recently flew dangerous low level intelligence gathering missions over parts of the former Yugoslavia and Balkans, Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. These missions gathered critical data necessary to ensure the safety of other air crews entering potentially hostile skies. One of Strittner's most important results was evidence of the mass exodus and purge of ethnic Albanians, corroborative information supporting and justifying NATO's position to the world.

Strittner, an example of the new generation of Luftwaffe pilots, met the first time with his forefathers; pilots who, six decades earlier, laid the groundwork for the future of aviation and aerial combat. When asked if he would like to meet some of the famous World War II veterans, Strittner said, "Do you think they would mind? They are important men, and I don't want to bother them."

The lessons
There was lots of opportunity for pilots and historians to share information for research and casual discussions of mutual interest. Perhaps the most poignant moment was when former enemies, American, British, South African, Belgian and German, now old and grey, met, some for the first time. They compared combat accounts and remembered that as young men they tried their best to eliminate each other. It is witnessing this singular event that makes reunions unforgettable.

About the author
Colin D. Heaton, a PhD Candidate at the University of Strathclyde-Glasgow, Scotland, is from Wilmington, North Carolina. He has written two books and is a regular contributor to World War II and Military History magazines both published by Primedia Enthusiast Publications History Group.

P-47 Thunderbolt's Pilots Association
by Jim Gustafson
The Jug, nicknamed for its milk bottle appearance, had more victories than any other fighter - its war record was never equaled. WWII Air Force combat data lists awesome achievements. Unlike most modern fighters, the P-47 was a single seater. One pilot did it all - flew the plane, operated the radio, fired the guns, released the rockets, navigated and bombarded. From such responsibility came great pride. Despite the aircraft's forbidding size, it was a real pilot's airplane; honest, stable and a pleasure to fly. Nearly all the leading aces flew the P-47 and many were aces many times over the five air-combat victories needed to qualify for the title. The P-47, the only US fighter with an air-cooled engine, was able to absorb enormous battle damage, still fly and bring pilots back alive. Thunderbolt pilots loved the Jug for its sheer survivability.

On May 2, 1961, the Jug's manufacturer, Republic Aviation Corporation, convened a reunion of 873 Thunderbolt pilots to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the plane's first flight. The following year Jug alumni chartered the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association to further camaraderie and perpetuate the memory of the plane. The Association represents a love affair between an airplane and the men and women who flew it. Some Women's Aviation Service Pilots – WASPs – flew the Jug both overseas and stateside.

Psychologists cannot explain how the pride felt by boys in their late teens and early 20s can still be felt by men in their 70s. Out of this feeling the P-47 Association was born and grows in defiance of the grim reaper calling many past members home.

The P-47 did not lend itself to peacetime, it gulped fuel and was phased out by 1956. No cheap plaything - just six Thunderbolts still fly.

The Association is augmented by an auxiliary, the P-47 Advocates. While Advocates have not flown the plane in battle, their considerable support includes research, model building and data collection. As Association members age and die, the Advocates continue to perpetuate and venerate the memory of the P-47.

Contact P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association, Ltd., c/o The Wings Club, 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York NY 10017. Their 1998 reunion will be in Dallas, Texas.

464th Wing celebrates fine tradition
by Boyd L. McLean, SMSgt, USAF retired
The 464th Wing was activated by Tactical Air Command in February 1953 and sent as airlift support to Air Force and Army units in operations from the Carolinas to Southeast Asia. In 1957 the base and wing were reassigned to Tactical Air Command's Ninth Air Force. The primary mission aircraft C-123 and C-130E proved their capabilities during the Vietnam era.

The first 464th Wing Reunion as in 1996 but small groups were meeting periodically throughout the US. Charles B. West, Colonel, USAF retired, was instrumental in the 'first' C-123 reunion held in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Clarence B. Slaughter, Jr., former 464th Wing Commander, Billy C. Mullinax, SMSgt USAF retired and I met annually in Biloxi, Mississippi, for informal 'staff meetings.' Charles West and Joe Stilwell met weekly in Fayetteville and we joined hands and went to work. For most reunion members attending from out-of-state it had been twenty- to twenty-five years since their departure. Membership voted to hold reunions in Fayetteville every two years so that old reunion members could come back home and reminisce. A large number of our 464th Wing personnel retired or were discharged in the Fayetteville area.

The 330 formal members total military service exceeds 6,900 years with five years average time served with the 464th at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. The average age of our reunion members is seventy years young.

A favorite of reunion members is the "Reunion Brochure," containing addresses of all known members, old photos from their career at Pope and other memorabilia. A special treat for our 1999 Reunion Brochure will be profiles of members in their second or third careers. One of the most interesting and unusual is the career of Jerald O'Brien, a former C-123 pilot with the 464th Wing between 1961-64. His second career was with Delta (Western) Airlines and his third as owner and winemaker of Silver Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, California.

This year's reunion will be the "really big one." There will be a tour of Pope AFB, with a visit to the flight line where reunion members can enter the cockpit of their favorite aircraft. A golf tournament at Pope AFB Willow Lakes follows, with local dignitaries participating. Door prizes are awarded to those traveling farthest, and the youngest and oldest members present. A wide range of "table topics" about the good old days will be exchanged. We look forward to renewing old acquaintances, enjoying the 464th camaraderie we are blessed with and swapping tales of what we did and what we have been doing. On Sunday our "Farewell Breakfast" will bid goodbye until the 464th Wing Reunion in April 2001. There is something special about a military reunion. There is nothing like this comradeship.

About the Author
Boyd L McLean, SMSgt, USAF Retired, served as Administrative Assistant to three 464th Wing Commanders. After his retirement from the USAF he was selected Magistrate, 12th Judicial District, Cumberland County, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and later served in Gaffney, South Carolina, as Cherokee County Veterans Affairs Officer. He retired in 1992 and serves as Secretary, Treasurer and reunion coordinator for the 464th Wing Reunion.

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