NEWS | Oct. 3, 2012

437th Airlift Wing honors its history

By Airman 1st Class Tom Brading Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Veterans from the 437th Troop Carrier Group, the predecessor of the 437th Operations Group, and their families, traveled from all corners of the United States to Charleston, S.C., for their final reunion Sept. 28, at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base.

The 437th TCG, flying C-47 Skytrain transport units, played a vital role during the early morning hours of D-Day, June 6, 1944, and the remainder of World War II. During the Normandy campaign, the group towed and released glider planes, as well as carried troops, weapons, ammunition, rations and other supplies for the 82nd Airborne Division.

The group began their reunion tour at the C-47 Skytrain static display across from Bldg. 16000. Afterward, they were welcomed to the base by Col. Al Miller, 437th Airlift Wing vice commander, followed by an opportunity to tour the inside of a C-17 Globemaster III. The veterans also viewed flight equipment and observed demonstrations conducted by the JB Charleston Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

"It was great to see all the World War II veterans and hear what they thought of my job," said Airman 1st Class Amber Taft, 628th Air Base Wing EOD apprentice. "It was also very interesting to hear all their stories. I'm amazed at what they did for our country and also to see how things have changed since those days."

The group finished their tour by hosting an open panel discussion at the JB Charleston - Air Base Theater, where audience members had an opportunity to ask questions and peer deeper into the veterans' first-hand experiences during World War II.

The men all experienced different aspects of war during their years in service, but they are still bonded by years of friendship. As they sat on stage answering questions, audience members could sense the pride the men felt about their service and sacrifices from 60-plus years ago. The veterans also mentioned how great JB Charleston - Air Base looked compared to the bases they served at during their time in the military.

"The men on stage with me were the best group of fellows you'd ever want to serve with," said Don Wallace, former lieutenant and C-47 pilot. "And now, here we are after all these years, on stage."

"We're in awe of the heritage you all left to us," said Capt. Brent Anderson, 437th AW deputy chief of plans, as he addressed the veterans during the panel discussion. "It was your honorable tradition of bravery that we proudly carry on today."

"You (the 437th TCG veterans) are, and will always be, the bookend of the 437th AW," said Col. Al Miller, 437th AW vice commander. "What you did during World War II is what the Air Force has built upon worldwide."

Miller added that the sacrifices made by the veterans during World War II laid the foundation for what has become the best Air Force in the world. For that reason he thanked the men for their time and service to their country.