I recently returned from the 2018 reunion of the 384th Bomb Group in Dayton, Ohio. I plan to share more about the reunion in the coming weeks, but for now only have time for a few photo highlights.
The group’s first tour was the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton. What better place for a photo op than in front of the Memphis Belle, probably the most famous of the type of aircraft our veterans flew in WWII, the B-17.
Veterans of the 384th Bomb Group in front of the Memphis Belle at the National Museum of the USAF in Dayton, Ohio.
Left to right: Peter Bielskis (ball turret gunner), Bill Wilkins (engineer/top turret gunner), Henry Sienkiewicz (navigator), John DeFrancesco (pilot), and Don Hilliard (radio operator)
We had about four hours to explore the museum, but probably needed four days.
Our second tour was the Champaign Aviation Museum at Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio. It is the site of of an active B-17 restoration. Our group had a more hands-on experience here. Veteran pilot John DeFrancesco had the chance to show us how to fly our favorite warbird…
384th veteran pilot John DeFrancesco at the B-17 controls at the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio
…and I had the chance to see if I could fit into the ball turret. I did, but now can’t understand how those WWII ball turret gunners endured entire missions in that tiny capsule.
384th Bomb Group webmaster Fred Preller and veteran ball turret gunner Peter Bielskis help Cindy Bryan into the ball turret at the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio
I did also manage to get out of the ball turret. Afterwards, it dawned on me that I had a WWII ball turret gunner, Peter Bielskis, who had survived twenty-seven missions seventy-three years ago in the ball turret, helping me in and out of the one at the Champaign Aviation Museum!
Left to right: Bill Wilkens, Cindy Bryan, and Peter Bielskis at the Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio.
2018 reunion of the 384th Bomb Group
What a day!
Attendees of the 2018 reunion of the 384th Bomb Group: veterans, family, and friends of the group
Champaign Aviation Museum in Urbana, Ohio
But the day’s fun didn’t end there. That evening our group enjoyed our gala banquet and finished this year’s reunion with a veteran group photo in front of the wing panel that over one hundred fifty of our 384th Bomb Group veterans have signed.
384th Bomb Group veterans at the 2018 reunion in Dayton.
Left to right: Bill Wilkens (engineer/top turret gunner), Henry Sienkiewicz (navigator), Peter Bielskis (ball turret gunner), John DeFrancesco (pilot), and Don Hilliard (radio operator)
As I mentioned earlier, more details are coming in a few weeks. But until then, I have to rest up. It’s really tough trying to keep up with super heroes!
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018