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World War II Air Force Bomber Group Reunion - We Must Remember
By Kay Courtney Bryson
Each year since 1986, members of the 446th Bombardment Group Association have gathered at various locations around the country for a reunion of the Bungay Buckaroos.
Bungay is the town in England where 6000 British and U.S. Airmen were based from 1943-1945 during WWII. The 446th was one of the "Mighty Eighth" Air Force bombardment groups, flying air missions over Europe. The Association was formed "To perpetuate the unit history of the 446th Bomb Group, to memorialize the deeds and sacrifices of its members as a lasting tribute by the survivors to their former comrades."
The group met this year in Arlington, VA in May. The highlight of this year's four-day gathering was the dedication ceremony on May 19th at Arlington National Cemetery. A plaque honoring the group was placed and a sugar maple tree was planted as a living memorial to the 446th. Four and a half million yearly visitors to the cemetery will be able to pay homage to the 456 members killed in action, and the others who fought so hard for freedom and justice. Incoming President of the group. Link Veazy of Snellville, GA, spoke at the ceremony. He said, "We are proud of our achievements and the success of our missions in bringing about the end of that terrible and devastating war which took the lives of so many innocent people. I stand in awe as I gaze across these hallowed grounds where so many of our fellow defenders of freedom are at rest. They can no longer speak for themselves, but whenever I see Old Glory waving in the breeze, I can hear them loud and clear as they say, 'Do not let our sacrifice to have been in vain'. It is to all who served in the air war over Europe during World War II, particularly our lost comrades, that we dedicate this living memorial. Let it remain here in their memory for generations to come."
215 people attended this year's event. At Saturday evening's banquet, seven candles were lit. They honored the ground personnel, flight personnel, wives and families at home maintaining morale, today's armed forces members, POW/MIAs, the memory of those that didn't return, and the spirit of the 446th Bomb Group. Approximately 1,000 WWII veterans die each day in the U.S. Twenty-eight members of the 446th were on that list, since last year's gathering. These men, now in their 70's and 80's are aware that their numbers are dwindling rapidly. Approximately 960 to 2000 446th members are presumed still living. Newly elected President Veazy said his main mission during the next two years will be to incorporate associate members to the group. Ideally, the sons and daughters of the 446th becoming actively involved, is his main mission. "The heritage and memory can continue through them," he said.
Time is running out. These recollections must be shared and documented. Stories of the POW's; tales about nights of passion with a terrified stranger on a London furlough as the sound of bombs bursting are heard; A respite from the horrors of war, and a brief reminder that tenderness, though fleeting, still exists; Vincent told me how he and his comrades broke into Flixton Castle, the home of the local Lord, to eat fruit left in the hothouse. A behavior unimaginable back in Brooklyn, but quite justified in these surroundings. Veazey envisions putting the children of the 446th airmen in positions of responsibility to get the stories and keep them alive. This article is my small part towards that goal. I'm proud of these men. I'm in awe of what they did, and what they have become. As a daughter of one of them, I feel honored to keep their memory alive as they so deserve. I wish my father, Ken Courtney could have been at the reunion, though I felt his spirit strongly throughout the weekend, he passed away in 1974. Now I know where his wonderful sense of humor came from. These men won a war with honor, dignity, bravery and true grit. After the war, they didn't complain. They got on with their lives, became responsible citizens and raised families. They are true patriots, and they don't believe their countrymen owe them for their heroism. They understood it was their duty to serve their country, fighting for freedom. They came home to a hero's welcome, one that veterans of my generation didn't get. Though comparisons cannot be made of two different eras, the job these WWII veterans did was awesome and should not be forgotten. I wish I could have told my father how proud I am of him. I didn't understand then, but I understand now. I urge everyone to seek out the WWII veterans and tape their stories, or write them down. These are rich, wonderful memories we must preserve.
(The 446th publishes a quarterly newsletter called the Beachbell Echo).
Reprinted from Vet Extra, Summer 2000 issue
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