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Air Commandos enjoy 27th triumph
"Reunions are like fine wine, they get better with age," said John Connors of the 27th Air Commando Reunion in Hurlburt/Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Members brought memories, warmth, comradery, sadness and joy. They included their regular ACA Golf Tournament held at Elgin's Eagle Course. A $10,000 prize for anyone who got a hole-in-one on hole number five went unclaimed.
Friday sizzled with a Fish Fry. The Commandos "Country Store," open all four days in three different locations for the convenience of reunion attendees, sold t-shirts and other Commando memorabilia.
Their new Air Commando Building headquarters was the focal point of the reunion theme "Home Sweet Home." They unveiled a Vermont marble dedication stone with the inscription "Dedicated to the Spirit of All Air Commandos, Past, Present and Future Any Time, Any Place." In keeping with the reunion theme, twenty-two members were recognized for their outstanding support of the ACA Building Fund. Each of these Commandos or widows contributed from $1,000 to $5,000 to help bring the ACA building from dream to reality.
Honor to Tuskegee Airmen
The National Park Service is developing a park to honor the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black fighter pilots who gained fame for their daring during World War II. The airmen trained at Moton Field near Tuskegee, Alabama. The new national historic site will include period aircraft and exhibits about the airmen and integration of the US military, a very inspiring story. The airmen completed 1,578 missions during the war, destroying more than 260 aircraft in North Africa, Sicily and Europe. The crews were feared by the Germans, who called them Schwartze Vogelmenschen black birdmen.
Learn about the airmen at the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site at Tuskegee University; 334-727-3200; www.nps.gov/tuin.
from the Knight Ridder Tribune
Solving the mystery of USAAF B-17C #40-2072
by Colin Benson
For almost 50 years, the crash of USAAF B-17C, serial number 40-2072, was known only to people living in Mackay, Queensland, Australia. Apart from a civil police report, there are no records about the crash in Australia, and scant information in US military archives. Statistics show it was Australia's worst air disaster and the worst air crash in the South West Pacific during WWII.
In late 1991, a small committee met to design and construct a memorial tribute to American allies who died. Many came to Mackay on leave where they were billeted and made to feel at home by Australians. Many older locals still fondly remember those men and when Eleanor Roosevelt visited in September 1943. The Captain and crew from the USS Reuben James were at the Memorial unveiling in 1992.
I have researched the crash that took the lives of 40 American servicemen. The sole survivor, Foye K. Roberts, was left with a lifelong legacy of his injuries. I keep in contact with his wife, Vera, an ex-patriot Australian. A few American ex-servicemen who served in Mackay helped with research. Most recently, I organised a commemorative parade, on May 12, 1999, in which a contingent of sailors and Marines from USS Harpers Ferry took part.
The aims of myself and fellow researcher, former USAF Chief Master Sergeant Teddy Hanks, now in his 80's with failing health, of Wichita Falls, Texas, is helping tell the world and the victim's families about the crash, its aftermath, and to locate their final resting places. Through Teddy's research, we have a list of 41 casualties recognised/confirmed by the US Army Mortuary Affairs Department as having been aboard the plane. We traced and photographed about 20 of the final resting places in Hawaii and on the US mainland. Tributes from Mackay have been placed on graves by friends and families of the deceased.
A few years ago, an elementary school about a mile from the crash site incorporated the Bakers Creek Memorial into its logo. Although the school band played the Australian National Anthem for the last two ceremonies, their music teacher hopes in time to also have them play the American National Anthem.
There is a remarkable story of a high school graduation ring found by a young girl at the crash site, around Christmas 1943. Her mother told her never to give it to anyone but the family of the man who owned it. It remained unidentified until January 1993, when within 10 days of seeing it, I helped identify it. The lady still has the ring but I have never been able to raise the airfare to have her return it to the family of the deceased airman who came from Altoona, Pennsylvania.
The tragedy that took the lives of young men who could not be broadcast because of restrictions of war, and few families ever learned about the circumstances.
About the Author
Col. Colin Benson is a member and honorary historian of the Veterans' organization the Mackay Sub Branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia commonly known as the "RSL." Through his involvement and research, he is a defacto custodian of history relating to the Bakers Creek Crash of 14 June 1943. Contact Col. Colin Benson firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many more reunions will there be?
Nobody knows how many reunions there will be, and George Krynovich, 1997-1998 president of the 464th Bomb Group Reunion, asked in a recent newsletter that no one miss any reunions. He cites the steady attrition of his original crew, which is down to five living members from 13. "We must deduce that the number of reunions will be diminishing as passing years take their toll and chances for renewing old acquaintances become less and less." With that he urged his compadres to make reunions an important part of their lives.