The Commemorative Air Force’s Dixie Wing at Falcon Field has developed a system to help veterans and their relatives identify where the service members may have been and where their activities fit into the bigger picture of World War II.
The Dixie Wing will be offering this feature as a service at the upcoming WWII Heritage Days in Peachtree City, April 22 and 23. While it’s impossible to include everything about the Second World War, the searchable, interactive database has details of most major WWII combat units, military bases and major events of the war.
Main photo above: Retired Lt. Richard E. Cole, 102, the only surviving veteran of the famed World War II Doolittle raid over Japan, will join other WWII heroes at the WWII Heritage Days. Cole served as Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot during the 1942 Doolittle Raid. A restored Mitchell B-25 like the one Cole flew also will be on display for the weekend. Photo/CAF.
The tool allows users to locate when and where a specific unit was deployed and which major battles or campaigns it participated in.
During WWII Heritage Days in 2016, World War II veteran Norman Monfort described his experience as a sailor aboard the USS Norman Scott (DD-690) off the island of Tinian during the Marianas campaign. Norman Scott was hit by Japanese counter fire from the island on June 24, 1944. Her captain and 21 others were killed and 50 more were wounded, including Monfort.
In another case, Dr. Phil Lundeberg, later to become the director of military history at the Smithsonian Institution, was a young officer on the destroyer escort USS Frederick C. Davis (DE-136) in the Atlantic.
Dr. Lundeberg sat down with the database and CAF members helped him locate on a map where he and his ship were sunk by a torpedo from the German U-boat U-546 on 24 April 1945. The U-boat in turn was immediately sunk by other Allied ships. Lundeberg was fished from the water along with many of the surviving German sailors. All were covered with oil, so Lundeberg and many of the Americans were held as POWs until they could be identified and separated from the Germans.
Most Americans have relatives who served in World War II in some capacity, yet they may have little understanding of where those relatives served or what historic events they may have experienced.
WWII veterans themselves often could not see the bigger picture of a conflict that spanned the globe. Many relatives worked in the Arsenal of Democracy, industries that contributed heavily to the war effort, building vehicles, ships, aircraft and munitions that supplied the Allied nations.
The public can help the Dixie Wing’s project by identifying units, military fcilities, actions, industries, etc. Digital copies of documents, newspaper clipping, etc., are a tremendous help, but family lore can provide valuable clues into a veteran’s service. Gathered information will be shared with student interns Georgia Southern University who will conduct additional research, adding it to the database for future use.
“The mission of WWII Heritage Days is to celebrate the 1940s, salute The Greatest Generation and Inspire all ages to preserve the legacy of America’s veterans,” said CAF Dixie Wing leader Jay Bess. “The data base helps connect the public with their family history.
“World War II was the defining event of the 20th Century,” said Bess. “We hope the public will join us in preserving the legacy of The Greatest Generation”
The Dixie Wing is the Georgia chapter of the Commemorative Air Force, a 501c-3 and the world’s largest World War II flying museum, founded in 1957. Over the last 30 years, the CAF Dixie Wing has restored numerous aircraft and works closely with educators and community organizations to teach aviation and World War II history.
Suggested donations for WWII Heritage Days are $10 for adults 17 and older and $5 for children 11-17. Children 10 and under and World War II veterans are admitted free. WWII Heritage Days will take place rain or shine. Please, no pets. Tickets for “Keep ‘em Flying” are $55 before April 17, $65 after. Reserved tables and group discounts are available. All ticket sales are final. For more information, visit www.wwiidays.org or call 678-364-1110.
The CAF Dixie Wing, based in Peachtree City, Ga., was founded in 1987. The Wing, one of the largest units of the Commemorative Air Force, maintains and flies seven WWII aircraft including a P-51 Mustang, an FG-1D Corsair and rare types such as the SBD Dauntless dive bomber and P-63A Kingcobra. The Dixie Wing organizes two large events a year — WWII Heritage Days and the Atlanta Warbird Weekend. The unit, composed of 300 volunteers, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that relies on contributions of time and funds to carry out the mission of the CAF.
The Commemorative Air Force is a non-profit organization dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft. Based in Dallas, Texas, the organization has more than 13,000 members and operates a fleet of more than 166 World War II aircraft. www.commemorativeairforce.org. — Written for The Citizen by Chris Madrid.