by John Herlihy
Every bomb group has its characters and some of them become legendary. One such was Butch Rovegno, an almost professional southern, Butch had a warm personality and a rich sense of humor. As each new Group Commander arrived, Rovegno staged and energetic public relations campaign for his line crews. That he gained the respect and affection of hundreds of men a generation his junior speak much of the man he was. Butch and his wife, "Mommie," entertained many 100th Groupers after the war at Bolling A.F.B., where they were stationed. Butch died in 1970.
John I. Herlihy (349th Engineering Officer)
After the 100th Bomb Group had finally reached England and was well established at Thorpe Abbotts, the news came around that Eugene Rovegno was appointed the Group Engineering Officer. Major Rovegno was not an original member of the 100th as were the four of us out of the Chanute Field Cadet Class of 42-4, who were the Squadron Engineering Officers and all recent college engineering graduates in our early twenties. Major Rovegno was a transfer from the Service Group, a World War I pilot, and a long-time reserve officer. Initially there was no particular reaction on our part since as individual squadron engineering officers we merely wanted to continue to be left alone, each with the responsibility to supervise 100 mechanics in the maintenance and repair of up to 18 aircraft.
But it was not possible to ignore Butch Rovegno for very long. He was the same age as our fathers (one of who was and Air Corps maintenance engineering officer in France in World I}. His visits to the squadron engineering sections were frequent and not in the formal military manner. He had not come to give detailed instructions and to be critical. He was affirmative. He always had time to be friendly and conversational. He always seemed to a round to be helpful.
In connection with each of the combat missions, Major Rovegno was invariable in the control tower at both take-off and landing time to answer questions from pilots in the air about engine or aircraft equipment problems.
Butch organized and directed "Rovegno’s Rangers," who were trained to use their heavy duty tractors to pull any misguided or distressed planes out of the English mud or, if necessary, any disabled plane off the runway with a minimum of delay. He was able; good-naturedly to tell the young pilots to eat more carrots to improve their night vision to keep the planes out of the mud. He always seemed able to unite the efforts of the combat crews and the ground crews and make us all feel that were important contributors to the team effort. He received permission to fly on one of the combat missions and returned with a piece of flak as a souvenir, which he insisted carried his serial number.
There was one occasion when Butch Rovegno over reached himself. About midway through our tour of duty, someone established a volleyball court. The game became very popular and he couldn’t resist joining his younger associates in an enthusiastic, hard fought match. As a result, he spent the next week walking around the base with a badly strained back at a 45-degree angle and with his volleyball career laid to rest.
When Colonel Fulkrod, the Division Engineering Officer, visited our base, Major Rovegno proved very able in providing a warm welcome with appropriate conversation, food, and pictures; and proceeded to do a first class sales job on the merits of our maintenance engineering performance.
Butch Rovegno wanted to be with people and activities. He was quick to organize and direct the bingo games and any other activities or diversions that would make life more interesting. He had an outgoing personality, frankness, and openness that gave him a natural ability to communicate readily and effectively with all levels and personalities. His enthusiasm for the job we were doing was contagious and he never seemed dismayed by the long separation from his normal life with is family and friends. He was a morale builder in showing us all how to retain our balance and sense of humor. His ability to promote communications let to a spirit of cooperation and teamwork that made a substantial contribution to the effectiveness to the entire Group.
Butch Rovegno is warmly remembered by all of us who were closely associated with him for his spirit, enthusiasm, courage, good humor, and friendly interest in each of us individually. We honor and respect his memory and the 100th will not forget him.