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2011 Cleveland

Reunions - Cleveland 2011

Cleveland, Ohio, September 8-11, 2011
By Joe Urice, 351st Squadron

The 2011 Cleveland Reunion possibly will go down in history as one of the 100thBG’s special ones. Members were informed early on to expect a good reunion at Cleveland and it went far beyond that “good” description to result perhaps in one that might set a new and higher standard for our reunions. Nancy Putnam and her volunteers are to be highly congratulated for an impressive and unforgettable event.  The tone was set from the get go by the registration volunteers Jerri Erickson,  This time the thrust of the reunion indicated an increased direction towards historical events to go along side by side with the local events available for members’ different interest levels.

Unfortunately a few long planned and anticipated projects such as the availability of two active duty KC-135 tankers were unable to be at Cleveland due to our nation’s more pressing needs and those needs also caused the absence of the Alabama National Guard F-16 fighter of Willow Run performance fame piloted by Brian Vaughn. Fortunately six active military members headed by Colonel Joseph William DeMarco of the Mildenhall 100thARW were able join us along with Ivan Rasmaussen, another active duty military member assigned to the Altus, Ok, Air Base. But so many other events were planned and presented for our benefit that reunion attendees could unfortunately not participate in all of them.

Those in attendance who were current on their dues received the first of our newest100th Bomb Group Foundation Roster. Those not in attendance will receive their rosters by mail.

But perhaps the most rewarding event was the experience of meeting with old-time friends plus enjoying new friends among the 55 veterans and others of the approximate 288 total members that attended.

Some of the events were the following from which to chose :

Jan Zdiarsky’s presentation as Director of Museum of Air Battle Over the Ore Mountains on September 11, 1944 and which is located in the Czech Republic was outstanding. Jan’s excellent presentation of new developments for the museum along with his long journey to be with us are just indicators of his great enthusiasm for his works.

Ron and Carol Batley of Thorpe Abbott Museum in England were also present at the PX with many unique items. I hope that many took the opportunity to sign for the Museum’s quarterly newsletter, the “Century Bulletin”.

Val Burges is an outstanding authority on worldwide WW2 POWs and a Honorary Member of the Stalag Luft III Association. She came to us from Sheridan, Wyoming. “War’s Voices” is a non-profit funding operation developing an internet archive of Stalag lll oral histories. Ms. Burgess highly impressed me by personally knowing a former Stalag lll POW neighbor of mine, Bob Wineberg, as well as his wife, Nina, and also his history authority son at Columbia, MO. Among Ms. Burgess’s many detailed stories was those involving individual POW camps and individuals throughout Germany and its conquered lands in Europe.

The Doolittle featured speaker, Jonna Doolittle Hoppes, during her tours in the United States and Europe, has delivered the message since 2005 of “If we don’t record our stories, they will be lost”. She is the granddaughter of General Jimmy Doolittle and is the author of two books, “Calculated Risks” and “Just Doing My Job”. She expertly shared her wide range of knowledge concerning General Doolittle’s life and military exploits.

The Tallichet B-17 ” Memphis Belle ” walk thru privileges and photo opportunities were followed by its three time fly over of the100thBG Restaurant where we had just enjoyed its excellent meals and service. The plane’s prominent vertical tail was freshly repainted with our WW2 square “D” emblem.

Our three B-17 restoration projects speakers were {1} Joseph Krzeminski, who spoke on the transforming of the Tallichet B-17 into the grand aircraft that it presently is.; {2} Afred Hagen, who gave us the amazing story of the recovery and restoration of the B-17E, the Swamp Ghost”; and {3} Randy Kemp delivered the story of the B-17G, the “Champagne Lady”.

The optional City “Lolly The Trolley” Tour Bus had Lakefront Museum and several other viewing options available.

An excellent discussion forum of approximately15-20 veterans that covered many different topics was presented ably by Mike Faley. A non-veteran member observed that this forum was one of the highlights of the reunion for her.

The fabulous service, hospitality and food of the 100th Bomb Group Restaurant and the Sheraton Hotel staff were unsurpassed.

The PX room project was a grand success from a financial and item availability standpoint. Besides the many clothing, books, 2 1/2 inch square patches and many other items made available, there were several renown artists’ prints of WW2 scenes available along with the showing of two new 100thBG theme pencil drawings by Robert Bailey who donated one for the benefit of the100thBG Foundation. It is now sold. Nancy Putnam, Mike Faley, Dan Rosenthal, David Distelrath and Ed Blanchard and several other volunteers – notably Alyece Urice and Jessica Putnam – made this year’s PX project extremely successful. The PX room was also again favored by the air crew equipment display of Chip Buerger & George Bruekett, who also appeared in full air flight dress at the Memphis Belle tarmac display where all the veterans gathered for a group picture. Joe and Jack OLeary held up Jack’s Thorpe Abbotts flag as part of this photo opportunity. This reunion will possibility be recalled as “the great camera shoot off” because of the outstanding number of pictures taken during the event. Two members {Jeanne and William Swinehart} returned to Cleveland this time from their Carmichael, CA home with a DVD of the entire PSAM meeting of last January. They again filmed the majority of this present reunion. A special shirt honoring the fallen crew of Adrian Caldwell’s father was seen along with the outstanding markers and pictures made by Joe O’Leary whose father was a copilot with the 100thBG.

Among the new business items of note was the Board’s decision was to change the dues year from January to December, a calendar year basis rather than the awkward September 1st to August 31 period. Dues paid at this time are to carry over through the full 2012 year. The Board also regretfully revealed the voluntary retirement departure of two of its long time veteran stalwarts, Grant Fuller and Bud Vieth. The next full reunion location for its 2113 event was warmly welcomed after being determined for Savannah, GA , the home of the 8thAF Museum. The Palm Springs, CA off-year event will be on February 25, 2012, where now exists a permanent 100thBG exhibit in conjunction with the large PSAM collection. The recently purchased painting by the 100thBG Foundation of the “High Noon Blitz” by Robert Bailey will now hang there