Walt's Look Around: 8th Air Force Reunion - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: 8th Air Force Reunion

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The membership of the society has shifted to the 2nd generation and 3rd generation as sons and grandsons and spouses join in.  

Harry Tanner brought part of his memorabilia collection up from Zachary, Louisiana to Lake Tiak-O'Kata at Louisville where the annual meetings are usually held for the former pilots and radiomen and gunners and whatever, to look over and remember when they used to use these articles when they were new.  

Most of these veterans are in their 90's now. When they were flying in their B-17's over Europe they were 19, 20, not many older than 22; just out of high school a lot of them, and into an airplane bombing Germany and getting shot at.  

Howard Richardson, who grew up in Louisville, says 25 missions started out to be the magic number. 

"Doolittle came over and he upped it to 30. Then during the invasion, Eisenhower, General Eisenhower, he upped it to 35 because he didn't want to lose all the experienced crew," said Richardson. 

Prewitt Lee of Louisville told me his crew went in thinking 25 missions would be a cinch. 

"We'd fly them 25 missions in 25 days if they'd let us and we'd come home. But our first mission, we lost two planes, two crews and we got shot up pretty bad and we wasn't quite as eager as we thought we was going to be," said Lee. 

Eugene Spearman of Saltillo made 25 missions ok. But then he got caught by the extension. And his worst moments came on number 26. 

"The tail gunner was killed immediately. The pilot was injured and the waist gunner was injured," said Spearman. 

George Roberts of Gulfport was on one of the most ill-fated missions of the war, to bomb the ball bearing factory at Schweinfurt. 

"Needless to say that was the worst mission I ever flew. We lost 60 airplanes that day," said Roberts. 

You are still young and invincible and all of life is ahead of you. An endless, boundless life in your estimation, and you make your plans. 

As did Vince Provenzano of Osyka who met three other buddies and made fast friends of them and the four planned on getting together every year after the war with their wives and families for the rest of their lives. 

"One mission changed that. And three of us didn't come back," said Provenzano.  

"You grew up real fast," said Richardson. 

How ironic. That it was the brave acts of the generation just ahead of us post war baby boomers who grew up so fast, that gave us the world into which we were born and our childhoods where a breeze. Until the next war came along. 

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