2010 Willow Run

Willow Run 2010

Willow Run 2010 Mini-Reunion/Air Show
Detroit, Michigan


THE THUNDER OVER MICHIGAN EVENT
August 5-9, 2010
The 100thBG along with the 8thAF Historical Society
At Willow Run, Michigan
By Scott & Joe Urice

It was call letter TOM for short as Jack O’Leary labeled this Thunder Over Michigan 8thAF Historical Society event---that name became very appropriately descriptive after hearing and seeing the low level fly-over on Saturday by the Alabama National Guard F-16 jet with its Square D markings. It was flown and named by Major Brian Vaughn to honor his 100thBG grandfather, Harry Vaughn. This F-16 was also supported by T/Sgt [Harry S] Shane Scroggins who had marked the jet’s opposite side with the name “Superstitious Aloysius” to also honor his grandfather’s {Lt. A.R. Scroggins} 95thBG plane. That WW2 plane was shot down and ditched on 4 January 1944 in the North Sea where Lt Scroggins was fortunately picked up by the British Destroyer, the H.M.S. Verdun.

Additional aircraft that buzzed the Saturday crowd were eight B-17s, in trail, all of which were adorned with eye catching nose art and markings. Then nine P-51s with their splendid Merlin engines roared across the huge audience’s view at a height of what seemed only 10 feet above the ground. Armored ground troops supported by several half tracks, jeeps, personnel carriers, tanks, and several similar other vehicles were the simulated targets. Other fly-overs were by a B-24 Liberator and afterwards came ten low flying AT6s in elements and also in full formation while each trailed smoke reminiscent of a B-17’s contrail when at high altitude. Finally, a stunt pilot in a death defying open cockpit bi-wing Stinson thrilled the appreciative audience. It was an unforgettable performance on the flight line by these classic aircraft and crews that took place in front of the twin Willow Run hangers of WW2 vintage. At the facility’s peak, B-24s were rolled out every hour in an effort to supply the US & its Allies with its great wartime needs.

The 100thBG Saturday attendees were provided with a sizeable VIP tent that was well stocked with cold bottled water and numerous chairs. Cameras were flashing from all corners, but picture count of 275 by Joe O’Leary is highest now known. Notables present included immediate 8thAFHS past President Mark Copeland and his successor, Harry {Sheriff} Doug Tanner {and spouse, Lorene}. Mike Faley of “High Noon Over Haseluenne” book authorship fame was also there. Nancy Putnam was being crisply helpful and efficient in her many duties that included seeing that vets got immediate access to walk-thru tours of B-17s. She also got drafted as a “Bus Boss” of one of the eight 55 passenger bases that carried the group to their flight line tents on that Saturday. John and Carol Tallichet arranged to have their renamed “Memphis Belle” available for touring and viewing. Their crew member, Joe, had a wild hard-to-accept version flak story involving the stars that had been placed above the ship’s mission bomb count on the A/C’s nose --- but when pressed he will tell a different version. Aircraft “reconstructer” Tom Wilson had his newly assembled B-17 tail section on display. It was the beginning of a new A/C intended to replicate Rosie Rosenthal’s WW2 famous “Rosie’s Riveters” B-17. Major Rosenthal’s son, Dan, was present to review the progress.

However, it was on Thursday afternoon when many of the100th vets, families and friends actually arrived at the host hotel Crowne Plaza [of Romulus, MI] and they had travelled from many directions including both coasts of America and several Southern states such as Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. Additionally several attendees came all the way from England--across the pond as English lady Vera Miller declared. Association members such as Colleen M. King & her sister, Susan, & their Norwich, England born war bride mother, Vera, were here and all now live in nearby Michigan homes. Colleen and Vera’s “roll in the aisle” stories of wartime civilian female life in England would be a splendid feature story all would enjoy. As a 17 year old, Vera was thrilled to go dance at the large LIDO dance hall in Norwich where the military and civilians in the area gathered to socialize. Vera was highly concerned when she was called for an interview with 100thBG Chaplain Glenn Teska when her G.I. intended husband [Norman J Miller} wanted to marry her during war-time WW2.

Jim Gintner of Cambridge, England joined staff members Cindy Goodman and Jan Riddling as they “manned” the 100th PX and hospitality room. One story to hear about travelling is Jan’s dilemma with her car’s lost tail lights. The 100th PX was the only one staffed and items displayed were books, shirts, new 100th caps, and Square D carry sacks. Also from England were uniform “reactors” Clive David Stevens and Shaun Beeching---Clive was in full flight uniform including parachute and was one of the very first to be on the flight line Friday for a B-17 ride. Other uniform “reactors” at this event were Chicago based George Bruckert and Chip Buerger who also had displayed their superior equipment collection at the 2009 100th reunion in Albuquerque, NM. Satellite organizations represented were the Kassel Mission Group and a Stalag Luft lll POW group.

Perhaps the largest family group in attendance was that of the Buschmeiers. One picture taken of the group totaled 14 people; all dressed in their personal family-identified white crew shirts. Frank W Buschmeier {LWG---Gibbons Crew} became a POW while in the 350th Sqd. and while at this event he participated on the Saturday night forum panel for the March, 1944 Berlin missions.

Ed Blanchard made the event a dual purpose trip with his 100th attendance that followed a visit with a former Navy shipmate living in Northern Michigan. One attendee brought his kinsman’s short-snorter {approximately five foot long} for display and it had been almost completely covered by veterans’ signatures from all war theatres. So many outstanding individuals and stories were available that no words can adequately describe this outstanding scene. Opportunities to sign pictures, books, jackets, posters, A/Cs and metal parts abounded. Major Vaughn {F-16 pilot} introduced a new signing “fad” by requesting WW2 veterans’ signatures on the lining of his grandfather’s WW2 A-2 leather jacket. T/Sgt Scroggins was collecting signatures in his personal leather log book. But no one got to sign Jack & Joe O’Leary’s personally designed Willow Run crewneck shirts. Ex-Marine Larry Simeone, of the O’Leary’s Boston-area four-man entourage {which also included Rod Bowles}, made available to several persons, his series of extremely well executed photos of the nose art on the B-17s on the line. Also seated at the O’Leary table were Scott Urice, Dorothy Sisson and Alyece Urice. The 8th’s hospitality room was a popular meeting room and well run---interestingly, on display there was the marvelous wall sized picture of an in-flight German Messerschmitt 109 that had been presented to Mark Copeland by Hap Chandler.

Vivacious Pattie Anne Brand, Director of Finance/Membership of the Michigan Education Association, and her sister, Janet Scheetz, along with their 349 Sqd. veteran father, Joseph D. Bohrer [2nd Lt. & originally a Nav. on the John Carroll Crew but later he became a Radar Operator on Wilford Murray Crew}, all made a happy entrance at the Friday breakfast sporting their new design black 100thBG caps. Adrian & Robert Caldwell, of the Mississippi Chapter of the 8th AFHS, made several copies available of their excellent news bulletin, appropriately named “Contrails & Propwash”. Adrian is the Editor and Treasurer while Robert is 3rd VP of the Chapter. Also there was Brian {Bear} Anderson.

That Friday many visited the enormous Ford Museum while many others took private transportation to the Willow Run flight line to see the numerous A/C on display. One of the very interesting WW2 aircraft seen that day was the beautiful B-25 Mitchell bomber from the Tomball, TX, of the Texas Raider chapter of the Commerative AF-- {formerly The Confederate AF}. Doc Heckert and Sandy Thompson of that chapter were most gracious in displaying and expounding on the merits and history of the plane. As is well documented, B-25s were chosen by General Jimmy Doolittle to take off from the deck of the carrier USS Hornet in April, 1942 to bomb Tokyo shortly after the infamous Pearl Harbor attack by Japan’s Naval Forces. That chapter also had a B-17 on display.

As previously stated, the Saturday was a full day’s viewing of The Thunder Over Michigan program at the Willow Run facility. Saturday night started with another excelling meal and service at the Crowne Plaza’s main ball room. It was followed by a program similar in nature to one at the 100th BG Reunion in Albuquerque in 2009. The theme was the series of four missions made to Berlin, Germany on March 3, 4, 6 and 8th in 1944. This Berlin mission series was a vital bench mark in carrying the war deeply into Germany and preparing for D-Day Channel invasion on June 6th, 1944. A 45 minute video {developed by Julie Gerische] was shown and the program was further high-lighted by a panel discussion featuring several members of two of the crews on those missions. The pilots of those crews were Robert “Bob” Shoens and John P Gibbons and featured their B-17s, “Our Gal Sal” and “Miss Irish”, respectively, who shared the discussion along with Frank Buschmeier and Ed Stone. The “Our Gal Sal” name was the plane’s resulting name after each crew member put a name in a hat and the lucky one drawn was that from the crew’s Navigator---he originally had inserted “My Gal Sal” but, by consent, the accepted name became “Our Gal Sal”. “Miss Irish” came back all the way from one of its mission’s with the entire right side of the radio room area blown away by a flak burst. Amazing!! Three members of that Saturday panel were honored with gratis rides on B-17s that day. Among the other notables attending were some members of the 99thAF Red Tail P-51 Fighter Group Association as also was the 8thAF Museum President.

One of the truly good historical documents was shown that Saturday night by Earl & Barbara Rudolph of Maumee, OH. Earl’s father (also Earl) had been in a 351st Sqd. ground armorer unit since the beginning stages of the 100thBG arrival at Station #139 {Thorpe Abbotts}. Earl had just recently discovered his late father’s day by day log book dairy that showed the detailed bomb load specifics and other factual data on every ship he serviced to go on a mission. The dairy ended only when he was sent home on 3 September 1945. The book even detailed the 10 January 1945 A/C crash at 10:30 AM into the 100thBG bomb dump. It was a remarkable 100thBG historical document and has the potential of being the basis of an outstanding book.

Sunday was a mixed tour schedule. Breakfast was the last event meal for several individuals that needed to get return home for work requirements---for example such was the case for Houston attorney A. Benjamin Ramsey. It was just one day too long for some persons. Afterwards some people revisited the flight line while others toured the Ford Museum. The 100thBG was provided with a sizeable VIP tent that was well stocked with bottled water and numerous chairs. Later, Sunday night’s Gala was another excellent dinner followed by music by the Jump Street Big Band of 16 performers playing many of the famous and popular songs of the WW2 era. This night actually became the last opportunity to visit with several of old-time and the many newly made friends.

Monday could be best described as departure day for the great majority of attendees. Jane and Bud Vieth caught an early flight back to Washington DC. Joe Urice and Bud most likely were the only two veterans here who actually shared the same barracks at the 100th—it was hut #6 of the 351st Sqd. Alyece Urice was headed to Florida for a national sorority/fraternity convention. An interesting breakfast attendee was the webmaster of the 401st BG, Rick Kaufman, of Ames, Iowa. He highly praised the 100th web site, www.100thBG.com.

Please remember to contact our 100th treasurer, David Distelrath, if you are hopefully inclined to assist the 100th BG with much needed donations as well as regular or past due membership dues that are so vital for maintaining the Group and its excellent efforts to serve members in so many ways.

The next large 100th events will be in Palm Springs, CA in January, 2011 and in Cleveland, OH in September, 2011. But just now everyone was focused on heading home and all realized we had attended an outstanding and historic event at the 2010 Willow Run spectacular.