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Fred Daiger – 1994 Tour



Fred Daiger became Group Adjutant.

Following from a letter to Paul West dated 21 Aug 1994


This was my seventh trip to England, as a part of the 100th Bomb Group, and the sixth time I have had the pleasure of heading it. However, taking into consideration all the wonderful events that took place at various times, from the dedication of the Control Tower, the opening of the Horace Varian Center, dedication of a memorial to General LeMay, this trip’s activities tops all.

The central theme of this Tour was the sprinkling of Major General John Bennett’s ashes over the Control Tower, Saturday, 2 July. The many other activities, and surprises that followed, made this the trip to remember, for one and all.

I flew to London, Sunday 26 June, along with Dick D’Amato, our great tour organizes, and his son-in-law and daughter. We arrived in London Monday morning, and to my delight, took a taxi to our hotel, in the Kensington area, reminding me of how much Janie always looked forward to riding in those high-ceilinged taxis. Wandering about the area, I found a quiet family pub, with lots of trees and shrubs, planted myself in one of the chairs, and watched the world go by, whilst having a pint or so. Later, realizing that something was missing, ordered a plowman’s lunch, and the day ended on a serene note: early to bed, and off to Norwich Tuesday noon. Unaware there was a rail strike, but learning quickly that train service was sharply curtailed on Wednesday, I was to learn that a group had called a “wildcat”, and we sat for over an hour. The Norwich hotel was adjacent the airport, which had been Horsham St.Faith, during WW II. Wandering in for breakfast Wednesday morning, a familiar face greeted me, a blonde waitress. She took one look, and said You are “Pappy” or words to that effect, and had been a waitress at the hotel where we stayed in 1992. So, for the remainder of our stay, Julie and I reminisced, and keeping her promise, she and her husband brought their 6-month old son to the Base, Sunday.

The troops arrived about noon, Thursday, after their overnight flights from the States, and as I was looking at faces, someone said “you must be Pappy”, and it was Missy, John Bennett’s oldest daughter with whom I had been in contact for months. Later, I met the rest of the clan, the beginning of a great friendship, and I was informed that I was truly a member of the Bennett family. Apparently John had spoken of me, with them. Thursday afternoon was open, but some chose to go into town, while others slept or wandered about, renewing and making friendships. Thursday evening, after the first of several delightful dinners in the Carvery, the General Meeting, at which the changes were explained.

Friday morning, onto the bus, and to the American Cemetery, for the Memorial Service. Ray Miller and I laid the wreath at the base of the flag pole, after which Ray offered a simple but eloquent Prayer. Suffice it to say, there were many tears shed. After looking at the Wall, inscribed with the names of aircrewmen who lost their lives, and looking at the magnificent Chapel and Memorial Hall, back onto the bus, and on to Duxford and the RAF Museum, where we lunched and wandered about, along the mile of hangars and aircraft. We were permitted to go aboard the B-17 on display, and many of the wives saw the positions their husbands had occupied in “The Bird”, which now looks rather small, but very proud. Back to Norwich for a relaxed meal and bed.

Saturday morning, July 2nd., was for sightseeing and shopping, in Norwich, and then for the first

visit to Station 139, and the Memorial Service for Major General John M. Bennett. Father Paddison, Rector of All Saints’ Anglican Church gave a simple but eloquent Service, and precisely at 3 o’clock, a T-6 (Harvard) flew over at a very low altitude, and John’s ashes were strewn over the Tower area. Following this, and I had learned this just a few short hours before, I was asked to give the Eulogy. I almost broke down with emotion, and it is safe to say, there wasn’t a dry eye among those assembled. John L. Bennett, the son, spoke briefly, followed by Ron Batly, British Committee, who made a revelation during his remarks, that took us all aback. It seems that John Bennett visited the Base in 1957, met with Mike Harvey, et al, and gave them support, which was never defined, but one can assume it was both financial and moral, which as Ron put it “made the project possible”. The genesis of what we have today, for the most part, the sweat and money on the part of the British, before we in the States became involved. It was a revelation not only to those visiting the Base for the first time, who couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but for those of us who have long supported it. The group was truly the “l00th Family” when we dined Saturday evening.

Sunday, 3 July, was “Open House” at the Base, to which visitors paid One Pound for admission. Our day began with a Memorial Service at All Saints”, with the Bennett Family having an opportunity of viewing the Church Records, and seeing John’s signature, approving the marriage of an American serviceman to an English girl. A moving experience for them. Again, an audience with wet eyes. It began as we alit from the bus, to fine British Legion members lining both sides of the walk, as we entered, and as we left. The dedication of the Vestry Door and stained glass was not held, due to the fact it has not been completed, and like so many churches everywhere, they were short of funds. Back on the buses, after m2 new friends and renewing acquaintances for some, and on to Thorpe Abbotts, and the Open House. We were free to wander about, giving untold numbers of autographs on WW II 8th AF books, etc., until about 3 p.m., when the “Sally B” flew over. They outdid themselves this time, with more passes than ever before, much to everyone’s delight. Back on the buses about 4, to get ready for the Farewell Dinner that evening.

About twenty British,,our great friends from the lOOth., joined us for dinner, spread among our party. No speeches other than very short; remarks Pappy Daiger, Sam Hurry, and Dick D’Amato; , it was a “fun” evening. So much so that when the party was over, it wasn’t over, and people stayed in the room and around the bar for at least an hour. The trip was becoming more memorable by the hour.

Monday morning, 4 July, no celebration, but on the bus, and on to Portsmouth, encountering the

first of several great traffic tie-ups, in England and in France. We arrived in Portsmouth with plenty of time for the troops to visit the Invasion Museum, fort, and seawall, before going to the hotel. We also saw the preparations being made for the Tour de France, to be raced through the city on Thursday, coming to the U.K. via the “Chunnel”.

The Invasion Tapestry, on display in the Museum, is unique in that it covers more than just the Invasion, but the events leading up to WW II. Some five years in the making, by volunteers, it is unique in that it is two layers of fabric, upon which the design was marked by dots, to be worked by the embroiderers. Portable recorders are provided, enabling one to have a comprehensive knowledge of the events leading up to the war.

Very early the next morning, to the ferry, and the passage to France, to Cherbourg. Uneventful and smooth, it presaged the most unusual and thrilling part of the tour.

The sixteen making the tour first visited St.Mere Iglese. A paratrooper’s chute became entangled on the steeple of the church, and he hung there for hours, as the battle below him raged on. The main feature of the Museum is an invasion glider, complete with pilot, co-pilot, and eight paratroopers. From there to Omaha Beach

Max Barasch, a Navigator, who flew two missions on D Day, laid the wreath at the Memorial, another moving occasion, with the carillon playing our National Anthem, and then Taps, at the conclusion. We visited the area, where it is obvious to what extent the Germans had built in, and equally obvious as to what the bombing and shelling did. Now, with grass growing everywhere, it seems somewhat tempered, but still there.

Lunch at a small seaside village, away from the madding throng, with an excellent local meal. Then, on to Pointe d Hoc, where the Rangers made their miraculous ascent of the cliff, but not without great loss of life. This rugged escarpment made everyone think of what it must have been like, then. Art Edmonston laid a wreath at the foot of the Memorial. Unfortunately, there was not enough time for us to view the Bayeaux Tapestries.

Thursday morning, for our stay in Caen, the only city totally destroyed on D-Day we headed for Clamart, where we had been told there would be a “small ceremony”. Again, vehicular traffic was bumper to bumper, for many miles, and long minutes. We reached the outskirts of Clamart, not too far off schedule, to be met by Roland Fouillets our host, two WW II 6x6s, and a Jeep, which provided an escort to the cemetery. We did not expect to see an area filled with people, a band, and dignitaries, both French and American. We unloaded, and with the band playing a dirge, the men followed the French, with the wives behind, through the cemetery to the area where the Memorial to “Royal Flush” and her crew, and headstone were located. Remarks by the Mayor, with Leon Croulebois recounting the events surrounding the crash landing of the plane.

(Those who attended the Milwaukee Reunion, 1973, met Leon, on that occasion). Following the ceremony, the ten men, and some spouses gathered around the Memorial for picture taking, and exchange of greetings with many of our French hosts. Then, back on the bus, to City Hall, where we were told we would have a light repast.

We got lost, en route, but thanks to Leon, who was riding with us, made our way. Into City hall, and up to the main auditorium, where the Mayor, a Colonel and Major–from the American Embassy, and assorted dignitaries were ready with messages in French and English. An oil painting of a B-17 was given the Bennett family, in the General’s memory, and a small part of “Royal Flush” by one of the guests. The Bennetts said that they would see that the sister of the pilot, killed in the crash, would get this token. Then, each of the ten men was announced and asked to step forward and receive a memento of the occasion, an inscribed medallion, and a sample of Balenciaga perfumes. (Personal note: when “Pappy” Daiger was called, as I went up to get the gift, the spokesman asked if that was my real name). Then, the Reception began, with lots of wine, champagne, and goodies. Friendships developed without benefit of a common language, as the time passed and the wines flowed. Later, we adjourned to a dining room, where the light meal turned into a seven-course dinner, concluding with a selection of the wonderful cheeses of the area, and, of course, lots of wine. Finally; after some emotional farewells, we boarded the bus, a happy lot, and headed for Paris. Ours was the first group to go to Clamart, and the first time such a celebration had been mounted. It was the unanimous conclusion that we should have done it long ago, and should do it again, next year, 1995, during the VE Day Celebrations.

The Paris Hilton is located practically at the base of the Eiffel Tower, block from the Seine, and across the river from the Museum of Modern Art. It being peak tourist season, prices were at their highest, and crowds everywhere. A Metro Station around the corner from the hotel afforded everyone an opportunity to explore as much or as little of Paris as they chose. Other than breakfasts, meals were “on your own”, which resulted in many tales about food, and prices. The word got around that after 7, Saturday evening the troops would gather at the bar, on the 10th floor, where we took over the tables by the windows, and held forth for hours.

Sunday, 7 o’clock, on the bus and headed for Orly, where the majority were to board flights for the U.S. The Bennetts went their way, to other destinations, and one or two of our tour stayed on, in anticipation of another ceremony, involving a few of them, later in the week.

In conclusion, those who had toured before, agreed that nothing in the past could compare to the experiences we had just had, and that it should be repeated again next year, if possible. The idea was advanced that a tour, the last organized tour for the Hundredth, by Tamarac, to coincide with the activities planned for the 50th Anniversary of VE. More about that. later.

All Saints Church, Thorpe Abbotts
Reunion Service of the 100th Bomb Group
Sunday, 3rd July, 1994 at 11.00 a.m.
Preacher: The Rev.. Michael D. W Paddison, Rector of Thorpe Abbotts
Sermon (based on St. Luke 22:39-46) – “A Future and a Hope”

Who knows what the future holds? Yesterday at Wimbledon, in the Ladies’ Singles Finals, Martina Navratilova was beaten by Conchita Martinez, the Spanish girl. Conchita was one year old when Martina first came on the tennis scene. We heard in an interview that, as the Spanish girl grew up and learned to play tennis, her ambition was to play Martina Navratilova. Did she ever imagine, while still a little girl, that one day she would deprive Martina of her tenth Wimbledon title, I wonder?

Who knows what the future holds? Fifty-one years ago tomorrow, the 100th Bomb Group bombed La Palice in Western France and you lost one plane, which meant ten men lost. Fifty years ago last Wednesday, the 100th Bomb

Group was involved in bombing Bohlen and Wittenberg in Germany; and fifty years ago next Wednesday, you bombed the Pas de Calais. There were no losses on either of these raids. (There is nothing recorded for the 3rd July, so I could not produce a 50-year anniversary for you.)

But did you ever imagine, fifty years ago, that you would be here today, taking part in a Reunion? Who knows what the future holds? Time is a very peculiar thing sometimes. Yet to have a future and a hope is very important. Whether we care about the future or not, it is very important

Jesus Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane, as you heard in that lesson that Ray Miller beautifully read to us a few minutes ago; Jesus went into that garden for the sake of the future. You were at Thorpe Abbotts fifty years ago for the sake of the future. And there are many parallels between the Garden of Gethsemane and Thorpe Abbotts Airfield. Each of them was a place apart. Each of them was a staging post.

Let me explain – let me show you some of the parallels.

A Place Apart

The Garden of Gethsemane: A place to which Jesus often went with His friends in the evening, after the evening meal, when He was staying either in Jerusalem or at Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, with His friends out there. It was a place apart: pleasant – a suitable place for praying in, both for him and for His followers. And He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation”. By temptation He meant particularly the temptation to fall away; a time of trial, if you like, when you are tried hard, but you hold firm.

And this last visit to the Garden of Gethsemane was indeed a time of trial for Jesus. We heard about it in the reading, how He prayed to His Heavenly Father that He would remove the cup of suffering from him; that He would not have to go through what lay ahead. And yet He submitted to His Heavenly Father’s Will, and to what the next few hours were going to bring.

He went through this experience of agony, such that His sweat, as we heard, was “like great drops of blood falling down to the ground, with the dread of what might happen to him, and the burden of the world’s sin upon him. Add to that an intense loneliness: His followers all fell asleep, and when they woke up as the arresting party arrived, they all deserted him. Loneliness.

Now, Thorpe Abbotts was a kind of Gethsemane for everyone who was there. A place apart, certainly – by several thousand miles apart from your homes! Not, I suspect, a particularly quiet place, and certainly not at first sight appropriate for praying in. Yet, I suspect, that some very fervent praying went on at Thorpe Abbotts during the war years, perhaps by some of those going out on a mission the next morning, or for safety for particular friends involved in such missions.

And Thorpe Abbotts certainly, like Gethsemane, was a place of trial. It produced a time of trial for all of you:

For the fliers, a time of trial in facing the future: the dread of the next mission. I do not think it is insulting to say that. People who go clammy with fear, and yet wholeheartedly do their duty to the best of their ability, are in some ways braver than those who know no fear.

For the ground crews, a time of trial:Incredibly hard work, keeping aircraft operational; everything from mere servicing, to the virtual re-building of a B17 when it has been badly shot up: the pressure of time; and did you suffer from lack of parts at any time, I wonder? (I have to say I was three years old, so I cannot speak with authority on these things, and I am very willing to be corrected by you afterwards!)

For the fire, rescue, and ambulance crews, pulling people – or bodies – from a shot-up, or even burning aircraft – a time of trial.

For the surgeons and nurses, doing their best to mend broken bodies – a time of trial.

For everyone on the base who underwent the trial of waiting for the aircraft to come back, waiting for that first sight, or the first sound. How many will there be? Also, the trial of anxiety, watching a shot-up B17 limp in and land on its belly. Will they make it?

The trial of writing letters to the bereaved families and loved ones. A time of trial for everyone on the base: The trial of helplessness, frustration, indignation, anger, when the enemy attacked you here, at Thorpe Abbotts, when the enemy attacked you here at Thorpe Abbotts, when they came over in their own aircraft.

There were many parallels between Gethsemane and Thorpe Abbotts. Each was a place apart.

A Staging Post

The Garden of Gethsemane was where Jesus’ final battle began. The enemy to be fought and beaten comprised sin, death and the devil. The Bible tells us, “The soul that sins shall die”; and St. Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death”. And Gethsemane was, as it were, a staging post: the staging post from which Jesus carried the battle right into the enemy’s camp. In order to rescue the human race from sin, Jesus had to experience the very worst that sinful man could do to him. And to rescue you and me from death, He had to experience death, just as every other human being that ever has been, or ever will be, has to experience death one day. It was from Gethsemane that Jesus allowed himself to be taken: and to undergo a travesty of a trial; scourging; abuse; and ultimately crucifixion – as unjust an execution as ever there was; Perhaps the most undeserved death that there ever was.

But Jesus had to submit to all this; He had to enter the enemy’s camp, actually to be there, to go through it, in order to win that victory. Without the Cross, there would have been no Resurrection; without Good Friday, there would have been no Easter joy. For all His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where “His sweat was like great drops of blood falling down to the ground”, He did submit and, in perfect obedience to God, He won.

Now, Thorpe Abbotts was also a staging post, from which the battle was carried into the enemy’ s camp – literally. The target was the German war effort, but the enemy behind it was Nazism, a manifestation of the very same evil against which Jesus fought. It was an evil that oppressed, enslaved, abused, tortured and exterminated and, if unchecked, through the Axis Powers threatened the whole world – it was, after all, a world war. From Thorpe Abbotts you helped carry the battle into the enemy’s camp, by bombing his aircraft factories, his munitions factories, railway marshaling yards – you know better than I the targets you flew out to hit. You carried the battle right into the enemy’s camp.

And every single person on this base had something to do with that effort, some part to play. Even the cooks: take away the food and you realize how important the cooks are!

The enemy fought back hard with flak, Messerschmitts, and FockeWulf 190’s, and it was a long, hard slog, with heavy losses at times in men and planes. The immediate objective was to free Europe from Nazi German occupation. But the overall objective, was it not, was to give the world a future and a hope, because I come back to where I started – the future is important. It was important to you, because when the fighting was over you could be reunited with your families, with sweethearts, with your wives, and children. And children could grow up in a free world, not threatened by Nazis or whoever.

In the same way, Jesus Christ’s overall objective was to rescue the human race, freeing it from the grip of sin, death and the devil’, so that we could be free to worship God, and to give us a future and a hope. The battle He fought, He fought for us; His victory He won for us, to bring us complete forgiveness and new life with Him – a free gift to all who simply accept Him, as the Son of God. To whosoever will accept Him and accept His forgiveness. however bad they are, He gives that free gift. And not just for now; nor just for the next 50 years, but for ever and for all eternity. Not just in this troubled world, but in glory and in the presence of the Lord.

I want to close by reading what for me is one of my favorite passages from the Revelation to St. John. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a Bride adorned for her husband, and I heard a great voice from the throne, saying ‘Behold the dwelling of God is with men; He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away’.”

To have a future and a hope is very important. God has offered it to us.

The following 100th personnel accompanied Fred Daiger on the 1994 Tour
Max and Dorthy Barasch
Biniti Bennett – General Bennett’s grandson
Wiley Dobbs
Edward and Mary Hovde
Ivan Hunter
Wendy Jackson – General Bennett’s daugher-in-law
Chris Marlow – General Bennett’s grandson
Missy Marlow – General Bennett’s daughter
John L. Bennett – General Bennett’s son
Lou and Lil Pignatelli
Arthur and Donnie Edmonston