Thursday, November 17, 2011
Fighter pilots get together for 30th and last reunion
By SUE WATSON
A big family reunion of World War II fighter pilots, their families and friends, toured Holly Springs recently on the occasion of their last reunion.
They were the guests of Chelius H. Carter, whose uncle, Chelius Clifton Howard, served in the 385th Fighter Squadron, stationed in England. Second Lt. Howard was killed in action on March 21, 1945.
Those airmen attending the reunion said they do not know how many of the 364th bomb squadron are still living. About 67 people attended this last tour, among whom were six pilots and two ground crewmen. Carter hosted a reunion for the airmen and their families several years ago.
Richard M. and Barbara Heyman of Eugene, Oregon, were among those on the tour of historic homes, beginning at Barton Place.
“It’s sad,” said Barbara Heyman, referring to the ending of this 30-year tradition. “The reunion was held all over the country and a couple of times in Harrington RAF Base, England, where the airmen were stationed during the war.”
Richard Heyman was a member of the 384th Fighter Squadron.
Airman George Schroeder was also sad at the ending of the annual meetings.
“We are falling by the wayside,” he said.
The fighter planes escorted bombers on runs over Germany and “did a lot of straffing,” he said.
He was 20 years old and one of the younger ones in the squadron, now 87 years of age. His fighter group had 90 pilots to start with, he said.
Schroeder said the entire 8th Air Force Fighter Command – about 18,000 of them – were on board including about 1,000 men of the 364th who returned home to a heroes’ welcome on the Queen Mary, November, 1945. About 18,000 military were on the Queen Mary. As they arrived in New York Harbor, there were thousands waiting to greet them.
“We came home to waving, cheering crowds,” he said. “A lot of us ended up in the Korean War, too.”
Schroeder got out of the service then went back in to serve 33 years in all in the military.
The Heymans settled in a town near Eugene, Oregon, where their state is taking a hard hit from the economy.
“The economy is really bad in Oregon,” B. Heyman said. “Lots of children are going hungry, with people of low or no income. A lot of volunteering is going on in our little town of Creswell.”
Small communities have organized food banks, she said. The unemployment rate is about 11 percent, close to the highest in the nation along with Mississippi, she said.
“Logging was our big industry,” Heyman said. “We have switched to tourism, especially in the grape and winemaking industry, almost as big as in California.”
Oregon’s and Wasthington’s cherry crop failed this year, but the fall crops of apples and pears were not hurt this year. Oregon is also a state that raises blueberries and marionberries, a blackberry.
The state also produces filberts (hazel nuts), another big crop. The state has miles of high desert and is about 500 miles wide, she said, with the Willamette Valley sandwiched between the Cascades and the costal range, the heart of Oregon’s agricultural and grape growing region.
The high desert about 300 miles wide, filled with sage grass (tumbleweeds), is located east of the Cascades and must be passed before reaching Idaho.
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