Today I am on the road. John DeFrancesco, WWII Veteran of the 8th Air Force and 384th Bomb Group, my husband Bill, and I are heading to New Orleans. By this evening, we will be in the company of many other WWII Veterans of the 8th Air Force, and their families and friends. I’m looking forward to reuniting with old friends and making new ones.
It is the first day of our 2017 Reunion, which opens tonight with a Welcome Reception. We have three more days to look forward to with tours of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans City Tour, and Plantation Tour. We also have special dinners to anticipate – an 8th Air Force dinner buffet and speaker, an intimate Rendezvous Dinner with everyone dining with their individual bomb group, and the Gala Dinner and Program at the World War II Museum at the end of the week.
This year will probably be one of the largest turnouts for an 8th Air Force Reunion as we all gather in New Orleans. The Veterans, their spouses, NexGen (Next Generation) family, and friends who will meet this week to remember the Mighty Eighth represent 8th AF HQ (Headquarters), the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, and over thirty bombardment and fighter groups of the 8th Air Force which were based in England during WWII.
B-17 Heavy Bombardment Groups
- 91st Bomb Group, based in Bassingbourn
- 92nd Bomb Group, based in Podington
- 95th Bomb Group, based in Horham
- 96th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath
- 100th Bomb Group, based in Thorpe Abbotts
- 303rd Bomb Group, based in Molesworth
- 305th Bomb Group, based in Chelveston
- 306th Bomb Group, based in Thurleigh
- 351st Bomb Group, based in Polebrook
- 379th Bomb Group, based in Kimbolton
- 381st Bomb Group, based in Ridgewell
- 384th Bomb Group, based in Grafton Underwood
- 385th Bomb Group, based in Great Ashfield
- 401st Bomb Group, based in Deenethorpe
- 447th Bomb Group, based in Rattlesden
- 452nd Bomb Group, based in Deopham Green
B-24 Heavy Bombardment Groups
- 34th Bomb Group, based in Mendlesham
- 44th Bomb Group, based in Shipdham
- 389th Bomb Group, based in Hethel
- 392nd Bomb Group, based in Wendling
- 445th Bomb Group, based in Tibenham
- 446th Bomb Group, based in Bungay
- 448th Bomb Group, based in Seething
- 453rd Bomb Group, based in Old Buckenham
- 458th Bomb Group, based in Horsham St. Faith
- 466th Bomb Group, based in Attlebridge
- 487th Bomb Group, based in Lavenham
- 489th Bomb Group, based in Halesworth
- 491st Bomb Group, based in Metfield
- 493rd Bomb Group, based in Debach
B-26 Marauders Medium Bombardment Group
- 386th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath, Boxted, and Great Dunmow
- 352nd Fighter Group, based in Bodney, Norfolk
- 479th Fighter Group, based in Wattisham
We will mix and mingle in the hospitality suites and listen to many stories of courage and determination in the face of a long ago enemy.
From previous reunions, I know I will marvel at these men, now in their nineties, who in their teens and early twenties, fought for us in WWII and won our freedom. When I look these ninety-something-year-old Veterans in the eye, their wrinkles disappear, their backs straighten, and I can see directly into their past, see the boys from long ago who were warriors, patriots, and heroes.
It is as though time travel were possible and I am ducking flak and dodging German fighter bullets as I listen to the recollection of a particularly rough mission. I am not standing in an air-conditioned New Orleans hotel hospitality suite. I am in the skies over Germany and I am afraid. I am there because they are there. They will tell me what they experienced all those years ago as if it were yesterday. I don’t want to miss a word.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017