416th Bombardment Group (L)
October 3-7, 2018
2018 416th BG Reunion
Standing: Mickie Weinert
L-R Seated: Roland Dullnig, Dave Andrews, Bob Kehres
(Photo courtesy of Jean Sittarich)
THANKS to Dr. Vernon L. Williams and all those who volunteered and helped put on a WONDERFUL Reunion!
The 2018 416th Bomb Group Reunion, was headquartered at the MCM Eleganté Suites in Abilene, Texas, with over 40 attendees. Those hailing from the "Greatest Generation", pictured above, included 416th Bomb Group Veterans Roland Dullnig, Dave Andrews and Bob Kehres, along with Mickie Weinert, wife of the late Carl Weinert.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Hospitality Room Reunion HQ was the Hotel 2nd floor Veranda and adjoining room used to house the delicious refreshments which were graciously kept well stocked by Doris Sayles - THANKS Doris and MCM Eleganté Suites!
Wednesday saw almost everyone arriving, a few later than planned, and the comradery began immediately as if we had not been apart for the past year. Many took advantage of the free drinks provided by the hotel each evening as they regrouped at the Hospitality Room.
During our visiting, we all were pleased to find out that Wayne and Doris Sayles had recently been awarded the Barney Douglas Citizen of the Year Award by the Gainesville, MO Lions Club. CONGRATS to Wayne and Doris on this well-deserved award.
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Breakfast was free at the Hotel, so everyone started early Thursday morning to get a bite to eat before gathering at 8:30 AM to load up for the trip to Dyess Air Force Base. Beau Jory Vanderburg, Dyess AFB Museum Curator, along with David Dodge and Ray Holder graciously chauffeured our group both Thursday and Friday.
Before going onto the base, we visited the Dyess AFB Welcome Center and Museum where Beau Jory showed a video about the base and presented the heroic story of Lt Col William Edwin "Eddie" Dyess, one of the most decorated Soldiers from the Pacific Theater during World War II, for whom Dyess AFB is named. Lt Col Dyess was a native of Albany, Texas. He was captured by the Japanese on Bataan in April 1942, escaped in April 1943 and fought with guerilla forces on Mindanao until evacuated by submarine in July 1943. During retraining in the United States, his P-38 Lightning caught fire in flight on December 23, 1943 near Burbank, Calif. He refused to bail out over a populated area and died in the crash of his P-38 in a vacant lot.
Greeting us at the Museum were Captain Sean Bruce-Rennick, B-1 Pilot and Captain Anthony Bunker, B-1 Navigator/Bombardier, both members of the 28th Bomb Squadron, who joined our group as guides for the day. "Slice" and "Wedge", to use their "handles" have flown many B-1 ("BONE") missions in their career and are now instructors at Dyess.
Our next stop, on the grounds of Dyess AFB, was the Linear Air Park static aircraft displays where we did a walk around and took group photos at the Douglas A-26C-50-DT Invader (converted to B-26B), Serial # 44-35913.
We then had the honor of being allowed to visit the Flight Line where the 7th Bomb Wing had a Rockwell B-1B Lancer and the 317th Airlift Wing had a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules available for our group. We were able able to get up-close and personal with the B-1B, climb aboard the C-130J and spend quality time talking with flight and support/maintenance crews of both aircraft.
Lunch was at the base Longhorn Dining Facility, followed by a trip to the B-1 Flight Simulator training facility where everyone had the opportunity to take a turn in the cockpit. We finished our visit to Dyess with a roundtable discussion with several of the air and ground crew members where WWII veterans and active service personnel shared stories and exploits. Prior to the Reunion, "Wedge" put together a slide-show of 416th Bomb Group WWII photos and had it continuously playing in the breakroom. Included were several photos of Roland, Dave and Bob, our 416th Veterans, which allowed us all a glimpse into their daily lives during their tour of duty.
We then returned to the MCM Eleganté Suites to rest, congregate and dine. Bob Kehres was interviewed by Nereyda Vera, reporter for the San Angelo, KIDY10 FOX News, who published her video and article on-line at "102-year-old WWII veteran recalls war stories".
Friday, October 5, 2018
We all gathered again at 8:30 AM Friday morning, today for exciting tours of the 12th Armored Division WWII Memorial Museum and Frontier Texas!.
Executive Director and Curator William Lenches provided excellent information and narrative as he guided our group around the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum. While we were there, Timothy Chipp of the Abilene Reporter-News talked with several folks in our group and wrote a news article published on Saturday, 6-Oct-2018; click for the On-line or PDF version of the article. Our Veterans were provided a deeper insight into the daily lives of the Allied ground forces the 416th BG supported from the air. Our visit at the 12th Armored Division WWII Memorial Museum ended with a video about spotter aircraft produced by Britany Huckabee, one of Vernon's former students.
We next visited Frontier Texas!, a world class interactive museum and visitor center located in downtown Abilene, Texas. Here we were guided through the amazing displays, artifacts and state-of-the-art technology theater presentations that detailed the history of the region from the pre-historic Native Americans through the 1800's.
Back to the MCM for the afternoon. The planned Veterans Roundtable session was cancelled to allow folks some recuperation time after all the amazing events of the past two days. Later in the afternoon, Vernon led a very helpful discussion on "How to Preserve Your Family's Photographs and Documents".
Friday evening, Vernon hosted the "Wethersfield Dinner" featuring delicious Texas BBQ and a program which included:
"God Bless the USA Tribute to the 416th Bomb Group" video.
"Outward Bound" - Vernon's reciting a poem written by Muriel Bates Foose as she walked to work in a British defense factory each morning and watched the Allied bombers take off, form up and head east into harm’s way.
"A Wethersfield Journey" - Vernon's presentation of he and his student's June 2016 Wethersfield visit project planning, goals and results. The project succeeded in documenting and archiving through photographs and videos information on remaining 416th BG WWII structures, video interviews with residents preserving their memories of that critical period in history and assisting Ross Stewart in procuring a building to house the Wethersfield Heritage Center and developing all the exhibits of the 416th BG for the Heritage Center.
"Jim Dale Interview" - A video clip of Jim's Wethersfield recollections from when he was a young child during WWII.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Nine AM Saturday morning saw everyone attending the "Tribute to the Fallen and Folded Wings Memorial", which began with a Prelude, the Star Spangled Banner, the Posting the Colors by the Dyess Air Force Color Guard and a moment of silence to remember all those who have gone before us. Vernon then talked about the Service and Sacrifice of the 416th Bomb Group during WWII and presented two films he produced especially for this Reunion through the Old Primero Historical Foundation: "Tribute to the Fallen" and "Folded Wings Memorial".
"Tribute to the Fallen" is a moving memorial to all those who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice during World War II, and ended with a list of the 127 416th Bomb Group member Fatalities which occurred during their WWII Military Service.
"Folded Wings Memorial" remembers the 416th BG Veterans related to family members attending the 2018 Reunion.
Highlights of the 416th Bomb Group "Business Meeting", held from ten until noon:
• The meeting began with beautiful video memorials of Hilaria Huff and Wayne Downing put together by Wayne Sayles.
• Kathe Rensner presented her research and findings of the past year. The committee she heads decided on a group name called: "Friends of the 416th Bomb Group". Also, there will not be an initiative to create a formal Non-Profit organization at this time. There was consensus from the committee to state the mission of this group as:
"Keeping memories alive by perpetuating the accomplishments and heritage of the 416th Bomb Group for present and future generations."
This group will concentrate in the near term assisting volunteer hosts or hosting future reunions when a volunteer can't be found. Kathe is designated the Reunion Advisor for the group. In the future the group will also expand to include outreach to family, friends and others encouraging their participation with the Friends of the 416th BG.
For 2019, it was suggested and approved by those present that New Orleans, LA be the host city for next year's reunion. David Andrews informed the group that his daughter, Stephanie Andrews, volunteered to host - THANKS Stephanie.
• Wayne Sayles described how the Archive manages the multitude of artifacts acquired and donated over the years.
• Rick Prucha summarized the website enhancements worked on over the past year.
• Steve Roy wrapped up the Business Meeting with a slide show of his and Pat's trip to England and Wethersfield. While there, he represented the 416th Bomb Group at a Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony in the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial. The 416th Bomb Group donated the wreath Steve placed at this year's ceremony.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, visiting and preparing for the wonderful Banquet.
416th BG Reunion Banquet Highlights:
• Following group photos with the 416th BG Veterans [veterans and Mickie already identified in the picture caption] and Honorary Veteran USAF Capt (Ret'd) Wayne Sayles and his wife, Doris, the Banquet began with the presentation of the colors by the Dyess Air Force Color Guard. Vernon Williams then led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
• Doris Sayles presented the Missing Man Table Ceremony which honors the memory of those who have fallen or are missing who are no longer with us. David Andrews, III followed the ceremony by playing TAPS and Raymond Blasingame, Abilene Rotary Club gave the Invocation.
• Following dinner, Vernon provided introductions of our honored guests and presented 2018 George Bledsoe Awards to recipients Charles "Chuck" Hodge, a prominent oral historian, "For many years of work in creating a significant historical collection of WWII oral history interviews, and the establishment of a viable oral history program that continues to expand a growing and compelling oral history archive." and Richard "Rick" Prucha for "For many years of work in building a significant historical collection of World War Two materials online related to the 416th (L) Bomb Group, and the maintenance of a web delivery system making those materials accessible to the public worldwide." Congratulations to both!
• "Swift and Severe", another wonderful video produced by Vernon through the Old Primero Historical Foundation specifically for this year's Reunion, pays tribute to both the WWII era 416th Bomb Group alongside the modern, active 7th Bomb Wing and their War on Terror. It was shown after the Bledsoe presentations.
• Another highlight of the evening was Colonel Brandon D. Parker's Keynote Address. Colonel Parker, Commander, 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, began by expressing his sincere admiration, deep respect and honor to the 416th Bomb Group Veterans, both past and present. Colonel Parker continued with a discussion of the modern United States Air Force mission and responsibilities and his obvious pride in today's warriors, the dangers they face and their commitment to keeping us safe, secure and free.
• Vernon then presented Colonel Parker with an enlarged and framed photograph of Lt Muir, Lt Col Willetts, Lt Royalty, SSgt Rose before 'Reida Rae', A-26C A/C Serial # 43-22499 at Melun-Villaroche celebrating the conclusion of the 200th mission of the 416th Bomb Group on 8 Feb 45. He also received one of 416th Bomb Group Challenge Coins which were designed, commissioned and produced by Kathe and Gary Rensner in honor of the 70th year anniversary following the 416th Bomb Group inactivation for the 2015 416th BG Reunion. Colonel Parker presented Vernon with with a 7th Bomb Wing Challenge Coin as his thank you for all of Vernon's efforts.
After the Banquet's activities, many returned to the Hospitality Room for more visiting.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Sadly, Sunday was the last day of this memorable Reunion, although most folks were able to get in some last minute visiting during breakfast before heading home.
A sincere THANK YOU goes out to everyone who graciously gave their time to make this such a special Reunion and for making all of us, especially our Veterans, feel so welcomed in Abilene:
The 416th Bomb Group Veterans, Family and Friends who continue to keep the memories alive.
Dr. Vernon Williams for all his hard work to organize this year's Reunion.
Beau Jory Vanderburg for freely sharing his vast historical knowledge.
The Dedicated Men and Women serving our Great Nation at Dyess AFB.
Folks from the 12th Armored Division WWII Memorial Museum and Frontier Texas!
The helpful members of Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The friendly management and staff of the MCM Eleganté Suites.
Sue Berg, Carolyn and Sonny Haisler, Chuck Hodge, Steve Roy, Doris and Wayne Sayles, Jean Sittarich and everyone who lent a willing, helping hand.
2018 Reunion Photos from Jean Sittarich