One might say aviation was in Bob Hardy’s blood. The 76-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. resident was 16 when he soloed. By the time he was in his early twenties he had joined the Air Force. He saw action flying on secret spy missions along the Russian coast, flew combat missions in Vietnam and Korea before he…
The high-water mark of Phil Fessenden’s 30-year career in the Navy and the Air Force during the “Cold War” was when the Port Charlotte, Fla. resident was a member of Light Photographic Squadron 62 that took the low-level pictures of the Russian missiles in Cuba during the “Cuban Missile Crisis” in October 1962.
I wrote a story in the Sunday, April 4, 2004 Charlotte Sun about Sgt. Giff Stowell of La Casa Mobile Home Park in North Port, Fla. who flew as a gunner/engineer aboard a B-24 “Liberator” bomber that ended up on Ie Shima Island off Okinawa when a Japanese surrender delegation flew in on Aug. 20,…
Dick Napolitano of Oyster Creek subdivision in Englewood, Fla. was a spy during most of his 20 years in the Air Force and for an additional 20 years he worked as a civilian spy for the National Security Agency.
Richard Gross of North Port, Fla. remembers the late Ted Williams more a war hero than a baseball superstar.
When Cpl. Maurice Pouliot of Buttonwood Village mobile home park in Punta Gorda, Fla. reached the Army air base at Jorhat, India, in the Assan Valley at the base of the Himalayas the Germans were about to surrender and the war with Japan was within six months of being over.
Sometimes the stories I receive from readers are better than anything I can write. Here is a fine example of what I’m talking about: “Today marks the 41st anniversary, Oct. 27, 2003, of the end of the Cuban missile crisis.
By the time World War II rolled around, Bill Richardson had just graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in industrial management. He had already been commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Stanley Niemczura of Gardens of Gulf Cove south of Englewood, Fla. was a tail gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” in the 15th Air Force in Italy during World War II.
Jim Dewhirst was a radio operator aboard one of the many B-24 “Liberator” bombers comprising the 467th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force flying out of Rackheath, England that was turning Germany into rubble.
Herb Francis of Punta Gorda, Fla. had been in the U.S. Air Force a few years when he got a chance to join the super secret Security Service. It was 1964, in the middle of the “Cold War,” when he became an airborne spy.
On most of his 35 combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, Staff Sgt. Michael Tristano of Heron Creek subdivision in North Port, Fla. flew as a ball-turret gunner on a “Flying Fortress,” a B-17 bomber.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Russell Howard of Port Charlotte, Fla. began his 22 year career in the military as a young ROTC 2nd lieutenant who became an electronics warfare officer. In the beginning he flew aboard a Strategic Air Command B-52 “Stratofortress” flying out of Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga. preparing…
Floyd Coffield underwent his baptism of fire on a bombing raid over Ploesti, Romania, flying a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber on May 18, 1944. Some 600 B-24s and B-17 “Flying Fortresses” bombed Ploesti in an attempt to knock out the refineries. The German war machine derived one-third of its oil supply from Ploesti.
Mike Raymond, commander of Post 110 American Legion in Port Charlotte, Fla., contends, “I had the best job in the Air Force” during the “Cold War.” He was a boom operator on a Air Force 707 jet refueling tanker.
Col. George E. French of Venice, Fla. Golf & Country Club retired from the Air Force in 1966 after serving in World War II as a B-24 “Liberator” bomber pilot in the Pacific. His final post in his 24-year military career may have been one of his most interesting.
George French piloted a B-24 “Liberator,” four-engine bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He was a member of the “Long Rangers,” the 370th Squadron, 307th Bomb Group, 13th Air Force flying most of the time from a base on Morati Island, southeast of the Philippines.
At 6:06 a.m. Thursday, former Airman 1st. Class John Langley of Venice stood in front of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., and read 30 servicemen’s names who appear on the memorial together with more than 58,000 others inscribed there forever.
The high point of Peter Rabczewski’s four years of service in the U.S. Air Force was helping complete the construction of the Trans-Pacific Telephone Cable in 1964 as a member of the 2875 Ground Electronic Information Agency. His job was to install telephone and microwave communications throughout the Pacific for the Air Force.
In 1947, the year before George Kalaf’s freshman year, at the University of Florida, the school’s Gator football team lost every game. Some 8,000 students attended the university in those days.
Eugene Schweiss of Arcadia, Fla. was a teenaged Air Force armorer who saw to it bullets and bombs were loaded into swept-wing F-84 Thunderjets and F-86 Sabrejets during the Korean War.
It was All Souls Day, Nov. 2, 1944, Francis Murphy remembers most about his 26 combat missions as tail gunner in a “Flying Fortress,” over Germany late in World War II.
“Leading a formation of Havocs–A-20, twin-engine attack bombers–that dropped their bombs on a Nazi command headquarters in France and were on their way back to base when the German guns below got their range,” the five-page letter from Ninth Air Force Headquarters to Sgt. Ken Dvorak’s parents in Cleveland, Ohio explained.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, when tens of thousands of Allied troops were storming the beaches of Normandy, France, Staff Sgt. Wilbur Butler was flying as nose gunner aboard a B-24 bomber called “Boobie Trap” on a mission to bomb the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania.
The big, black, bold two-deck headline across the top of the front page of the Baltimore News-Post for Thursday, June 15,1944 read: U.S. B-29s BOMB JAPAN; GIANT PLANES’ 1st RAID WASHINGTON (AP)–The Army announced today that B-29 Superfortresses of the Army Air Fore bombed Japan today.
In 1940, Ralph Bates, of Port Charlotte, Fla. was 18 when he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Before he completed flight training in Canada, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The young aviator requested a transfer to the U.S. Air Force.
NOTE: I received this story from Thelma Miller of Venice,Fla., widow of Al Miller Jr., who flew as a copilot aboard the B-24 “Liberator” bomber in the Pacific during World War II. He wrote the story before he died two years ago. Miller flew 30 combat missions including: the Marshall Islands, Maloelap Kwajalein, Eniwetok, Truk…
“We caught it on our third trip. All three of our flights were over Berlin,” James Estrep of Englewood recalled.
For almost three decades Ron Klein of Port Charlotte, Fla. was involved in some of this country’s major military actions. Too young for Vietnam, he joined the Air Force in 1977 as an 18-year-old bomb loader.
By D-Day, June 6, 1944, former 1st Lt. John Nemeth of Port Charlotte, Fla. had flown 40 combat mission over Nazi-occupied Europe in a Martin B-26 “Marauder” bomber named “Johnny Come Lately.” He would fly 27 more in his bomber dubbed “The Widowmaker” by some because of its propensity to crash during takeoffs and landings.
1st Lt. Wallace Spencer of Tangerine Woods in Englewood, Fla. was on his 28th and last combat mission on March 24, 1945 when the B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber he served as bombardier in was shot out of the sky at 20,000 feet by anti-aircraft flak while bombing a railroad marshaling yard in Münster, Germany.
Doug Danforth of Englewood, Fla. was a precocious kid. He graduated from high school at 15, joined the United States Air Force at 17 and went to war with the 27th Fighter Escort Wing, 8th Air Force in Korea on Dec. 7, 1950.
Bob Weiler was the left waist-gunner on a B-29 Superfortress dubbed “Sky Scrapper,” part of the 61th Bomb Squadron, 39th Bomb Group, 314h Bomb Wing of the 20th Air Force, based on Guam in the Mariana Islands bombing Japan late in World War II.
When Sgt. John Spatharos of Tangerine Woods, Englewood, Fla. climbed aboard an A-20, twin-engine attack bomber dubbed “Steak and Eggs” at Kila Airstrip on the island of New Guinea during World War II he had no idea what fate had in store for him.
It was dark and eerie when he climbed out of the sack at 4 a.m, shaved and ate a breakfast of powdered eggs, Spam and coffee. Then he and the rest of the 10-man crew of “Shack Happy,” a B-24 bomber, headed to the briefing room with scores of other B-24 crews to get the…
Larry Rhodes of Venice grew up in Far Rockaway, N.Y. Just out of high school in 1941 he went to work for Republic Aviation building P-47 “Thunderbolt” fighter planes on Long Island, N.Y. for World War II.
Bob Burdick was a top turret gunner on a PV-1 Ventura patrol plane in the Pacific during World War II. The 88-year-old former gunner who now lives in Port Charlotte, Fla. with his wife, Maryan, saw combat at Tannin Island in the South Pacific, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Japanese home islands before war’s end.
Ed Hutcheson of Burnt Store Marine, south of Punta Gorda, was an airman first class working for Air Force Intelligence. His job was to intercept secret messages sent by his Soviet counterpart about the Soviet’s military operations.
Chet Buckenmaier comes from a military family. His grandfather rode with Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” in Cuba during the Spanish American War of 1898. His uncle was a Navy fighter pilot in World War II. He served for almost 20 years in the Air Force. His son is an Army doctor currently serving at Walter…
Tet was the big battle former Air Force Sgt. Jack Freeman of Port Charlotte, Fla recalls most vividly during his year-long deployment to Vietnam.
Dick Hughes of Paradise Park RV Resort south of Punta Gorda, Fla. flew a B-25, “Mitchell,” twin-engine bomber on 30 combat missions while serving in the 12th Air Force in Europe during World War II. He ended up in a “Mitchell” because a B-24 “Liberator” bomber was too big for him.
Airman 1st Class John Perdue of Punta Gorda, Fla. spent most of his four years in the U.S. Air Force decoding secret messages from the North Korean Air Force during the Korean War of the 1950s.
“Puff the Magic Dragon” was a big hit in the early ’60’s for Peter, Paul and Mary. It was also a big hit about the same time in a different sort of way for Airman 1st Class Bill Grant who now lives in Burnt Store Isles, south of Punta Gorda, Fla.
Jim Laurent’s 24 years of service in the U.S. Air Force was shrouded in secrecy. He was a high frequency radio communication expert who spied on the Russians, kept the radio equipment running in the SR-71 “Blackbird” spy plane and spent more than five years working in White House Communications for three presidents.
Leon Gumley died in John Wayne’s arms as they fought their way up Mount Suribachi in the closing minutes of the 1949 World War II movie “Sands of Iwo Jima.” He played Marine Pvt. Sid Stein and Wayne was Sgt. John Striker, the hero, who was also killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet during the…
Giff Stowell of La Casa mobile home park in North Port, Fla. was a gunner on an A-20 Havoc twin-engine bomber in the Pacific during his first nine months of combat in World War II. The rest of the war he flew as the nose gunner in “Lucky Strike,” a B-24 “Liberator” in the 380th…
When Bill Bingham bailed out of “Lemon Squirts,” his doomed B-24 “Liberator” bomber over northern Italy on Mar. 4, 1945, he never considered the possibility the silk parachute that saved his life would become a family heirloom.
Mary Chalifour of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Air Force Nursing Corps on a whim for three years in 1958. She and a friend she graduated with from nursing college in North Carolina decided to give the service a try. Twenty years later she retired as a lieutenant colonel in charge of all the nurses…
Bill Cunningham of Viscaya Lakes Mobile Home Park in El Jobean, Fla. was in his early 20s when he signed up for the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in July 1942. He was sent to Siena College in Loudernville, N.Y. were he received 40 hours of civilian flight training.
It was Capt. Harold Keathley’s 33rd combat mission flying “Skookum,” a B-29 “Superfortress” over Japan loaded with incendiary bombs. The target: Aomori, located along the coast of Honshu, the northernmost main island. What made this bombing mission special was that the crew flew from Tinian Island in the Pacific to Aomori and back, a distance…
Carter Endsley of Punta Gorda Isles kept the F-100 “Super Sabre” jet fighter planes of the 48th Tactical Fighter-Bomber Wing in the air during the “Cold War” in Europe in the 1950s and ’60s. For four years he served as a jet engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force.
Five days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941, 2nd Lt. John Pickering graduated from the U.S. Army Aviation Cadet Program. He had his wings, but he wasn’t qualified to fly anything but an AT-6 trainer.
Vern Greenwood of Punta Gorda, Fla. signed up for the Aviation Cadet Program on Dec. 1, 1942, almost a year after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor dragging the United States into World War II.
Hugh Bennett of Englewood, Fla. was a radio operator on a B-24 “Liberator” bomber dubbed “The Hard Way.” They were part of the 854th Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group, 14th Wing of the 8th Air Force flying out of a base 90 miles north of London at Metfield, England.
When Japanese Imperial Army soldiers marched into Semarang, where Robert Rienstra lived, on the island of Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies, he was almost 10 years old. It was March 1942, and the Emperor’s forces were in their zenith, sweeping everything in the Far East before them.
Before he completed his 30-plus years in the Army, Bob Dickinson was a an artillery officer, a fixed-wing airplane pilot, a helicopter pilot, a military intelligence officer, a transportation officer and a colonel serving as an assistant commander of the New Jersey National Guard’s 50th Armored Division.
Joe Brower of Port Charlotte, Fla. joined the Air Force to become a pilot, at the end of his senior year in high school late in World War II. Because they had more pilots than they needed, he ended up a staff sergeant and engineer aboard a “Flying Fortress” used for rescue in the Pacific…
Jim Heskett got his mother to sign him into the Air Force in 1958 when he was 17. It was the start of a military career that lasted more than two decades and took him across the country and around the world performing a variety of jobs for Uncle Sam.
Chief Master Sgt. Terry Keene’s primary duty during his 30 years in the military was keeping some of the most deadly airplanes in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal ready for war.
After graduating from Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1951, Ensign Bob Thomas served as a navigator aboard a Navy P-2V, twin-engine “Neptune” bomber. He flew intelligence missions with the “Blue Goose Squadron,” VP-22, part of the “Formosa Straits Patrol Force” that surveilled the China coast.
When I wrote this column in 2004 for the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper I was trying to make the point: Don’t do what I did and fail to interview your father about his military service and what he did in life after his time in the military. Unfortunately, I didn’t wake up to the fact…
It was the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. Maj. Nick Firda was flying a secret Strategic Air Command mission in a B-52 bomber loaded with atomic bombs across the Atlantic Ocean to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina when an oil pressure problem caused him to shut his first engine…
The six missions Lt. Fred Hocker flew over Berlin with the crew of a B-17 bomber called “Fightin’-Bitin” were the very worst of the 23 combat missions he made as a navigator in the 306 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force during World War II.
For most of his 24 years of service in the Air Force Sgt. Norman Page kept C-130 “Hercules,’ four-engine transport planes flying as a senior aviation mechanic and flight engineer or crew chief. After graduating from aviation mechanics training his first assignment, a Strategic Air Command mechanic at McDill Air Force Base in Tampa in the…
Carl Driver of Alligator Mobile Home Park on Taylor Road south of Punta Gorda, Fla. was the tail gunner in a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine, heavy bomber dubbed “Passionate Witch.” They were part of the 13 Air Force, 50th Bomb Group, 23 Bomb Squadron that flew from captured island air bases built by the Japanese in…
On an overcast April night in 1943 a lone B-17 bomber dubbed “Hotfoot Two” flew from Newfoundland to Greenland on its way to Scotland, Ireland, England and the war zone in Europe. The “Flying Fortress” was destined for the 8th Air Force to became one of the thousands of American, four-engine, heavy bombers to wield…
Their target: A road intersection near Schonberg, Germany, at the close of the Battle of the Bulge. It was Hitler’s last and largest offensive on the western front during World War II, aimed at blunting the allied advance into the “Fatherland.”
Almost 63 years after a bombing raid in a B-24 “Liberator” over German oil refineries in Romania, former Tech. Sgt. Jay T. Fish of Englewood, Fla. received the Distinguished Flying Cross in an elaborate award ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 24, 2007 along with the other eight members of the bomber’s crew.
Buried in a box of old pictures and military records tucked away in a chest of drawers in Vincent Durand’s Port Charlotte, Fla. home is a medal from long ago.
Second Lt. Art Folaros of Port Charlotte, Fla. went to Europe in 1944 and trained to fly a B-26 twin-engine Marauder attack-bomber nicknamed the “Widowmaker” to provide tactical air support for Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
Ed Jaworek was a co-pilot who flew a Mitchell B-25 twin-engine attack bomber on low-level combat missions for the 8th Air Force in Europe during World War II. He took part in the Berlin Air Lift, in 1949 and piloted a C-46 twin-engine “Commando” transport in and out of Berlin. When the Korean war rolled…
First Lt. Adam Kubinciak was the pilot of a B-24 “Liberator” bomber named “Miss Liberty,” part of the 706th Bomb Squadron, 446 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force stationed at Bungay, in southwestern England, during World War II.
Joe McKenney of Arcadia, Fla. had just graduated from aviation training at Manhattan High School in New York City in 1943 when he enrolled in the Emergency Defense Training Program to become an aviation mechanic.
It wasn’t the brightest move on his part, former Sgt. Pete Chisholm admitted more than 60 years later in the comfort of his Southwest Fla. apartment. “I volunteered to help some of Merrill’s Marauders out. At the time I was an engineer on a C-47 (twin-engine transport) flying out of Dum-Dum Air Base just outside…
Retired Maj. Gen. Richard Carr of Burnt Store Isles was among the U.S. Air Force Academy’s first graduates in 1959. He spent much of his 35-year military career preparing to fight a war with the Soviet Union that never happened. In 1962, he was involved in the “Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Jean Carr was an Air Force nurse during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. “I wanted to be a history teacher, but my patents didn’t have the money to send me to college for four years. They decided my twin sister, Joan, and I could both become nurses. So we…
1st. Lt. Guice Johnson was the bombardier on the 12-man crew of the first B-29 to land on Tinian Island during the closing months of World War II. In fact, when Capt. Walter Schroder put down the wheels, the Seabees were still working to build the runway.
Old “Iron Pants” decreed that the B-29 bombers would fly firebomb raids over Tokyo at 7,000 feet after taking command of the 20th Air Force. The “Superfortress” crews had been flying raids at 25,000 feet, Bob Althoff, pilot of one of the bombers, recalled decades later.
Second of two parts For 15 years Sgt. John Hames of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a flight steward aboard Air Force One.
First of two parts When President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline flew to Dallas 40 years ago on a campaign swing through Texas, Sgt. John Hames was the flight steward aboard Air Force One.
Maj. Robert Thompson was a citizen soldier and a “week-end warrior” — a member of the 141st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the New Jersey Air National Guard based at McGuire Air Force Base in central New Jersey.
On one of the 160 missions he flew over “The Hump,” Lt. Col. Tom Baxendale ran head-on into a flight of Japanese Zero fighters. He was piloting an unarmed C-46 twin-engine transport loaded with 55-gallon drums of gas.
America’s airborne military might in Europe during World War II was hammered home by thousands of four-engine B-17 “Flying Fortress” and B-24, four-engine “Liberator” heavy bombers that dropped thousands of tons of bombs on Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” from 1943 until the end of the war two years later. By then, there was little left of…
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Dudley of Waterford subdivision in Venice, Fla. flew a “Hercules,” C-130A, four-engine transport plane full of troops or supplies on hazards missions to the front lines during three Vietnam War tours.
Two days before VJ-Day, Japan’s surrender ending World War II, former Lt. Chuck Rauch, of Punta Gorda, Fla. was flying as navigator in an all black B-24 “Liberator” bomber. He was on a night mission to attack shipping at the north end of Ie Shima Island, part of the Japanese home islands.
Ret. Staff Sgt. Linwood Brown of Punta Gorda, Fla. was tail gunner in “Leggy Lady,” a B-25 Mitchell medium attack bomber, part of the 10th Air Force flying bombing raids in the China, Burma, India Theater in Burma, China and Thailand in late 1944 and almost until the end of World War II in ’45.
Bill Springer will never forget his first night on Iwo Jima, March 1, 1945.
“Glamour Girl” is what Lt. Joe Hart and his B-24 “Liberator” crew were going to call their World War II bomber. But they never got a chance to paint it on the nose of their four-engine plane because they were shot down by Japanese fighters over China on their second combat mission during WWII.
Cpl. Arnold Heins escaped death when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor 61 years ago today because he had just gotten off dining room duty at the mess hall at Hickam Field in Honolulu.
First Lt. Bob Normile, now living in Pine Brook in Venice, Fla. was copilot of the C-54 that flew Gen. Douglas MacArthur from Manila to Okinawa, Japan on Aug. 28, 1945, for the surrender ceremony ending World War II.
It was the railroad yard at Mannheim, Germany that was almost T/Sgt. Howard W. Dillingham’s and the other seven members of his B-17 bomber crew’s undoing.
“Ferrets flights” are what they were called. They were aptly named because the super-secret missions in modified B-29 bombers immediately after World War II were made to ferret out information about the Soviet Union’s most sensitive military sites.
Sgt. Ed Schuppenhouer was part of what was called, “McNamara’s Last Chance” when he served as a counter-insurgency specialist aboard an EC-121R four-engine Super Constellation in Vietnam in 1967-68.
By Jim Hussmann Special to the Sun After graduating from the Air Corps’ Navigation School in San Marcos, Texas in December 1944, Jim Hussmann of Plantation Golf and Country Club south of Venice, Fla. was ordered to report to Alamogordo, N.M., where he and 10 other airmen specialists were to begin training as B-29 bomber…
Earl Schworm, who lives in Boca View condominiums in Placida, Fla., served as a member of U.S. Air Force’s Control and Warning Battalion 932 in what became known as the “Intercept Capital of the World” during the “Cold War” of the 1950s. His job: tracking Soviet strategic bombers trying to penetrate U.S. air space.
Jimmy Stewart taught former 2nd Lt. Nick Radosevich of Englewood, Fla. how to fly a B-17 and B-24 bombers during World War II.
For their support of Gen. George Patton ‘s 3rd Army that stopped the German offense in World War II at Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge , 2nd Lt. Bill Wells’ P-47 Thunderbolt squadron received a Presidential Unit Citation.
Ted Weatherhead was a 21-year-old green 2nd lieutenant and co-pilot of a C-47, twin-engine, transport plane — a member of the 316th Troop Carrier Group, 44th Troop Carrier Wing, 9th Air Force — that dropped 19 fully-equipped 101st Airborne paratroopers behind enemy lines on D-Day hours before the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy…
“Billy’s Filly” is what he called her. She was the sleekest, most beautiful, best fighter plane there was in World War II, according to Col. William Fowkes of Punta Gorda, Fla., U.S. Air Force retired.
A gorgeous but lethal P-51 Mustang fighter plane knifing its way through puffy white clouds seemed to fly off the wall at De Carter Brown’s Port Charlotte, Fla. studio.
1st Lt. Bob Wachter of Port Charlotte, Fla. was the navigator on a B-29 bomber called “Old Upper Cut” that flew on the last “Super Fortress” mission of World War II. When his squadron left Guam on Aug. 14, 1945, he didn’t know they would fly not only the last, but the longest bomber raid…
Sam Harris of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. began his military career as a cable-splicer in the Army National Guard in 1970 and ended up in 1979 as a captain in the Air Force. He flew giant C-141 “Starlifter,” four-engine, jet transport planes around the world. In between he has lived a life filled with exciting…
David McKalip flew 30 combat missions as a radio operator on a B-24 “Liberator” bomber during World War II. The mission that made the biggest impression on him 65 years later was the flight that leveled Dresden, Germany.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Second of a two-part story. When the Korean War broke out in June 1950 George Hardy’s World War II service was long behind him. He flew a P-51 “Mustang” in the 99th Fighter Squadron as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black fighter group, during the Second World War.
1st Lt. Ken Stetson, was at the controls of a B-29 “Superfortress” the crew named “Tanaka Termite” when it was attacked by Japanese fighter planes while flying in formation over Mount Fuji on their first of 30 combat missions to Japan.
1st Lt. Thelma Daida was a surgical nurse working in the only in-country U.S. Army Air Force Hospital in Vietnam in 1965 located on the giant airbase at Cam Rahn Bay. It was an exciting time to be a 20-year-old nurse serving in Southeast Asia.
The barrel of Cpl. Sam Burns’ .50 caliber machine-gun glowed red from the heat of 1,000 bullets. He was firing at the twin-engine German JU-88 “Junkers” bombers strafing their artillery outfit in the Tunisian desert of North African in December 1942.
Harold Kloth of Lexington Manor in Port Charlotte, Fla. flew 30 combat missions as the pilot of a B-17 bomber nicknamed “Royal Flush” as part of the 8th Air Force in Europe during World War II.
Tom Cory of Buttonwood Village mobile home park, Punta Gorda was an aviation mechanic who kept a “Tornado,” B-45C, atomic bomber flying. It was America’s first four-engine jet bomber built during the Korean War era of the early 1950s to deliver an A-bomb to an enemy target.
Bill Schultz flew from a field in Foggia, Italy, as the pilot of a B-17 “Flying Fortress” in World War II. The 87-year-old North Port, Fla. resident, who lives in the Lazy River manufactured home park, was a member of the 301st Bomb Group, 419th Bomb Squadron, 15th Air Force 65 years ago.
Lt. Fred Buckingham flew his C-130 “Hercules,” four-engine transport plane to Vietnam just in time for the North Vietnamese Army’s siege of the Marine base at Khe Sanh, the biggest single battle of the war, and the enemy’s massive Tet Offensive, where every major city and many American military bases were attacked in a countrywide…
John Ross, who until relatively recently lived in North Port, Fla. for 33 years, was the pilot of a B-17 Bomber during World War II. He and his bomber crew were members of the 388th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force flying out of a field near Cambridge, England.
Donald Gatrell of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a crew chief on a B-47 “Stratojet” six- engine nuclear bomber during the early 1960s. One mission stands in his mind after more than half a century.
1st Lt. Richard Burns almost “bought the farm” on his 95th combat mission over North Korea in his F-84 “Thunderjet.” His squadron’s objective: knock out an enemy bridge.
David Wade of Overbrook Gardens in Englewood, Fla. was a crewman aboard a B-45 four-engine jet bomber during the Korean War era. It was this country’s first jet bomber after the Second World War designed specifically for a nuclear payload. Wade returned from a tour in Korea and Japan and ended up at the Air…
Aviation for Bill Stowe’s family is a way of life. For 38 years he worked as a civilian employee for U.S. Air Force Systems Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio overseeing the testing and development of some of this nation’s most important military and civilian airplanes.
Former Staff Sgt. Jerry Steimle of Port Charlotte, Fla. was a crew chief on an Air Force transport plane, refueling plane and helicopter who has been involved in many of the United States of America’s civilian and military adventures during the past forty years.
Lt. Col. Bill Brown was flying a “Red Anchor” mission off the Russian Coast out of Thule, Greenland in his KC-135 refueling tanker when he got an emergency call on his radar scope.
Maj. Gen. James Andrews of Punta Gorda, Fla. graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1970. He spent most of his 30-plus years in the service flying Strategic Air Command tankers, commanding air wings and serving in various capacities from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Air Mobility Commander and Inspector General.
It made no difference that 23-year-old 2nd Lt. Stephen Leopold was a Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University who served as a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces in Vietnam. Three weeks after arriving in country he was captured by the North Vietnam Army near Ben Het, in the jungles of Two Corps,…
Ed Scarff had a 30 year military career that spanned two services and three wars. He enlisted in the Navy in WWII as a teenaged machinest-mate and ended up joining the Air Force’s Aviation Cadet Program and flew jet fighters in Korea and Vietnam.
Victor Craig of Harbor Heights near Port Charlotte, Fla. spent 21 years in the Air Force serving as a loadmaster. He was a sergeant in charge of loading giant cargo planes properly, flying with them to their destination and getting the planes quickly unloaded.
Bill Lutgen of Venice, Fla. flew 378 combat missions in an A-37 fighter-bomber in Vietnam, received three Distinguish Flying Crosses and 19 Air Medals for his efforts and retired from the Air Force after 20 years in the service.
It was June 20, 1944 and 1st Lt. Leslie Nielsen was on his 28th combat mission over Nazi occupied Europe during World War II with only two more missions to fly. Their target: an oil refinery in Hamburg, Germany.
Tim Bryant was a Mosquito. During the Korean War he served as a forward observer for the Air Force. He called in air strikes on the enemy with the help of a pilot in a World War II single-engine, two-seat T-6 training plane and a radio.
It was supposed to be a “milk run.” The crew of “Angel in Di-Skies,” a B-17 flying as part of the 8th Air Force from a base in Framlington, England, during World War II, was sent on a low-level mission to knock out a railroad bridge near Jussy, France.
2nd Lt. Carl Citron hadn’t been in England but a few weeks when his unit, the 466 Bomb Group, 786 Squadron, of the 8th Air Force, was assigned to a low-level bombing mission in their B-24 Liberators against the German submarine pens at Brest along the coast of Nazi-occupied France.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Gilchrist was waiting at the airport terminal in Tokyo in 1967 for a flight that would take him to the war in Vietnam when a chance encounter with a Japanese couple changed his life.
Lt. Col. Doug Gilchrist was flying a four-engine C-130 Hercules cargo plane, used as a command ship, from a base in Thailand over North Vietnam when he came as close to “buying the farm” as he did during any of his 102 combat missions over enemy territory during the Vietnam War.
Col. Carl Citron (Ret.) took a sentimental journey last Thursday morning at Venice , Fla. Municipal Airport on a B-24 “Liberator” bomber like the one he piloted a lifetime ago on 33 combat missions over Nazi occupied Europe in World War II. He was in ecstasy during the 30 minute flight down memory lane as the four-engine heavy bomber circled Venice a 1,000 feet below.
It’s not every master sergeant who retires from the Air Force after 37 years who receives a Meritorious Service Award from the President of the United States or a personal note on White House stationery signed by the President.
Disaster struck on Friday, October 13, 1944 for 2nd Lt. Victor Barber a 21-year-old bombardier aboard a B-24 “Liberator” four-engine bomber flying from a base in Foggia, Italy. He was a member of the 251st Bomb Group, 724th Squadron, 15th Air Force.
When the Germans marched into Poland in September 1939 starting World War II, Ted Bobbin of Punta Gorda Isles, Fla. was a 14-year-old English high school student. He wanted to do his part for the war effort so he joined the Royal Observer Corps.
Lt. Chuck Hofelich was a “Thud” driver and proud of it. He flew an F-105 “Thunderchief” supersonic fighter-bomber, he and his jet jockey buddies called “Thuds” on 79 combat missions over North Vietnam.
Lt. Col. Joann Bolitho was a flight nurse who served in Vietnam and spent the rest of her 20-year military career in hospitals in Europe, Alaska and around the country.
Aviation Cadet Charles Grizzaffi wanted to fly a “Thunderbolt” fighter plane in World War II. He wanted to be a P-47 pilot, but the war was over before he got his wings.
Rene Camps was an aircraft mechanic who kept a Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog forward air control spotter plane in the air during the Vietnam War. He graduated from high school in Miami in 1964 and served two tours in ‘Nam as a member of the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron from 1967 to ’69.
A family tradition Bob Burling’s father, Samuel, served as a motorcycle dispatch driver on the front lines in Europe during World War I. Bob served two years, four months and 10 days as part of a B-17 bomber crew in World War II, and his son, Robert, served with the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam.
Despite what you may have read in history books or seen on the History Channel, the Japanese at the close of World War II surrendered first on Ie Shima Island before surrendering to Gen. Douglas MacArthur aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Lt. Charles Bailey, Sr. was the last of the line. He was the last of Punta Gorda, Fla.’s “Fighting Bailey Brothers.” The last of a family of seven sons and two daughters who distinguished themselves in war and in life during World War II, Korea and much of the 20th Century.