Oh! Snap! Vol. 13

Wow Sabers! A month has gone by, and you know what they say, “Time Flies when you’re having fun!” Our Airmen and families have been really busy with events and activities ranging from the 480th FS in Souda Bay, Greece, to Diversity Day, Back to School and WWII memorial commemorations. Here’s what our photojournalists captured this month to recognize these events.

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Posted in Been There 2014, Been There, Done That! | Leave a comment

Been there, Done that: Venice

Venice — the Queen of the Adriatic! Some people also refer to it as the “City of Bridges” because the city is surrounded by water. No matter what nickname this great city goes by, it definitely warrants a place on everyone’s bucket list.

Many believe this is a city only for romantics, but it’s also a city for those who love history, culture, architecture and culinary cuisine. My interests lie in food and architecture so I knew this was a place I had to visit before the end of my tour.

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Just a two-to-three hour flight away, anyone can experience what Venice has to offer in a short weekend. If you plan right, it’s possible to stay three full days in the city and not have to spend a ton of money or waste any days of leave. My friends and I spent a weekend exploring Venice which was just the right amount of time to appreciate the city and still have the desire to come back. We flew into the Venice Treviso airport late Saturday evening and hopped on a shuttle bus, which was more like a luxury bus, for a 45-minute ride into the heart of Venice. Tickets for the shuttle were only 10 Euro a piece which, to me, is super cheap! The bus dropped us off at a transportation hub, where people can get flights, water buses and taxis to the surrounding areas.

Once there, we purchased a 30 Euro water bus pass for the weekend since the water buses run nearly 24 hours a day. Now here’s where things got a little tricky — because Venice is a labyrinth of alleyways and corridors, one could get lost fairly easily without the help of a navigator, a map and very specific instructions on how to get to your hotel. Luckily, my friends had intimate knowledge of Venice, since this was their third time to the city.

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Our bed and breakfast was located in the Rialto Mercato district which was about a 10 to 15-minute walk from the famous historical area of San Marco Square. This proved beneficial since we were near “the action” yet a little away from it all to enjoy some peace and quiet. We decided to hit the sights at 8 a.m., the next morning for two reasons: one, to beat the heat, and two, to get there before the other tourists showed up.

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The first place we visited was Palazzo Ducale also known as Doge’s Palace. This building served as the palace of justice and as the seat of the government where decisions were made about the wellbeing of Venice. The palace was constructed in the 9th century and is of a Venetian-gothic design. This is a direct contrast to Byzantine structure of the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) located just across the way. But if architecture isn’t your forte, they have plenty of street entertainment not to mention several restaurants for one to choose from to include some tasty gelato!

Once we had our fill of this tasty treat, we headed over to the Scala Contrarini del Bovolo, which is a Renaissance spiral staircase designed by Giovanni Candi and constructed in 1499. By this time, everyone was itching to spend some hard-earned cash over at the island of Murano, also known as the “Glass Island.” Here, one can get all kinds of glass trinkets, jewelry and artwork, and pricier items such as wine sets and chandeliers. But don’t take off just yet – have lunch in one of the island’s restaurants. We had lasagna and pizza, and it was some of the best Italian food I’ve had to this day, and once again, it’s super cheap! If you’re not into glass trinkets, a short trip by water bus or taxi to the Island of Burano might be the place for you.

Burano is about a 20-minute water taxi from Murano and well worth it if you’re into lace and artwork. In my opinion, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the Venetian Lagoon as it’s full of vibrant-colored houses that make for fantastic photo opportunities. Walk around, take pictures and enjoy the ambiance of small shops and no crowds. The local population is roughly 2,500 people. At certain times in the day, you may feel you’re out there all by yourself.

Burano

Heading back over to the main island we stopped along the San Marco Piazza pier where countless numbers of vendors hawked their wares. They sold everything from food, shoes, purses, Venetian masks, magnets, clothes and key chains. Some were a little pricey, but if you’re a good at bargaining with the vendor, you may get your souvenir at a decent price. Dinner at one of the restaurants along the pier is also available, and I highly recommend the pizza.

We couldn’t leave Venice without making a few more stops to some famous landmarks such as the Realto Bridge, considered to be the “heart of Venice” and the Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge of Sighs is famous because it’s the last bridge prisoners crossed before heading to prison to be executed. Last but not least, we couldn’t leave Venice without travelling down the Grand Canal. For those looking for something romantic to do, a sail up the Grand Canal at night in a Gondola might be just the thing you need something to set the mood. It shouldn’t cost you anymore more than 80 Euro for a 30-minute ride and, from what I hear, is well worth the money. That’s definitely an item on my list for our next visit to the city!

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Until then, heading home from such a wonderful trip was just as easy as how we first got there. Just repeat the steps backward — only, when you purchase your shuttle bus tickets, be sure to inform the clerk which airport you need to go to, since they service the Venice Marco Polo and Venice Treviso airports.

If you have plans to visit Venice anytime soon, my recommendation is to do it before the winter time because it can get really cold. Also, wear a good pair of walking shoes, carry a detailed map along with a schedule for the water bus, and experience the sights, sounds and taste of Venice.

Happy travels!

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I was achin’ for some bacon

 Pig fest, a German celebration held in Wittlich, was incredible! Legend says that Wittlich was once a walled fortress and a guard was in charge of securing the gates to protect the people from attackers.

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 One day, the guard couldn’t find the pin to secure the gate. In an attempt to protect the village, he wedged a carrot into a hole, keeping the doors closed. Later, a pig came by and ate the carrot freeing the door and allowing the enemy to enter.

In a fit of rage, the villagers gathered all the pigs in the square and roasted them. Since then, a festival is held every year in August to celebrate the town’s history.

The celebration had musical performances, carnival games, markets and a village full of hungry people. What’s better than marching a bunch of pigs through the village streets, putting them on a spit and feeding hundreds of people?

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It’s interesting to me that pigs are roasted right in front of you. I have never had better tasting pork served on a delicious bun. I’ve always been a fan of food freshly hunted. In my opinion, it tastes much better than processed, store-bought products.

Bands also played in the streets. Some children from a local music school performed a bunch of popular American music. I couldn’t believe how well the young people performed; it looked like they were only in middle school.

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Seeing all the people with their friends and family enjoying the entertainment, carnival games and conversation, was very energizing. The rest of the night I wandered the market square and I felt grateful to have had the opportunity to explore Europe’s festivities with my friends.  

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Two Airmen, one war: ‘…and I was freed.’

The following is the second installment of a two-part series detailing two World War II Airmen and their visit to Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.

“…and I was freed.”

“Flying a P-47 with eight machine guns and a bomber too was really fun,” said Ralph Kling, a Ramona, Calif., native, recalling his U.S. Army Air Corps days. “I can guarantee you, it was fun as far as we were concerned.”

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt 

Like his colleague Archie “Lin” Maltbie, Kling’s near-acrobatic aerial skills with the Ninth Air Force’s 365th Fighter Group kept him flying in the face of deadly risks.

Yet, Kling’s 68th mission Sept. 21, 1944, wouldn’t end when he returned to the ground.
“We kind of wrapped things up and were about ready to go home, but there was one more building that they wanted to get rid of,” he said.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

As an element leader and feeling “pretty cocky about that,” Kling flew in a 12-ship formation to take out the targeted building.

So far, so good… until…

“Somebody on the ground with a gun didn’t know how to shoot,” Kling said. “So the dummy just shot straight up, and this dummy (Kling) flew into it.”

Like Maltbie’s scenario, the floor of the P-47′s cockpit began seeping with gasoline. Yet as he reached to bail out, the mechanism didn’t fully release him – he was stuck.

“My first reaction was to bail out, and when I did, I got as far as my legs,” he said. “I asked God to let me go, and I was freed.”

Barely escaping the flaming aircraft, Kling’s descent to the ground brought him within Axis territory. His first days of evasion eventually ended with capture, and he’d spend the next three months as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III — the same one of “The Great Escape.” 

His captors moved him again to Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany, before Allied forces finally liberated him and his fellow POWs April 29, 1945.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

And like many of his fellow veterans, Kling stayed with the emergent U.S. Air Force and continued to fly. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserves with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Since then, he’s devoted much of his time to helping other POWs across the country, speaking on their behalf and even dedicating statues to their memory.

To anyone who may dismiss the incredible grace as “dumb luck,” Kling said they need look no farther than to him as an example to the contrary.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

“I think down through the years how I’ve managed to get myself into one jam or another, and God has always been there for me,” Kling said. “I’ve been here now, and I probably shouldn’t be. I’m about to be 90 years old. I live kind of an active life, should stay home to rest. My wife and I just celebrated our 70th wedding anniversary. We’re so fortunate. We both are. But it’s unfair to me and God if I don’t let everyone know that He’s appreciated.”

“They helped us bring freedom to our country”

Both Kling and Maltbie, along with members of the 365th Fighter Group Association, toured Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, Aug. 9. The veterans received American flags flown by U.S. Army helicopters over Chièvres and then presented to them by the base honor guard.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

Members of the Belgian “Wings of Memory” military organization presented them with original ammunition shells from the war they had unearthed during an excavation as well as the best of Belgian beers in a sign of solidarity between nations.

Even Maltbie and Kling’s significance wasn’t lost on the Airmen’s children, too.

“They helped us bring freedom to our country and did so for others, too,” said Amir Chislom, 12, son of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christina Chislom, NCO in charge of Supreme Allied Command Europe Protocol and New York City native. “If it wasn’t for people like them, we still would not be free and would be living under a king.”

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

But perhaps the real treat for the 424th ABS Airmen wasn’t in receiving an autograph or handing over a piece of shrapnel or even Old Glory to the veterans.

Perhaps the true value came in realizing how today’s Airmen pledged to follow in Maltbie and Kling’s footsteps toward newer journeys as part of the U.S. Air Force.

“It’s really an honor for me to be here today,” said Kling to the Airmen. “I don’t know that you realize how important your work is. America needs help. Keep it strong. Thank God for you.”

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

To see more photos from the event, visit Spangdahlem’s Flickr page.
 
For more information on stories like this one, visit U.S. Army Benelux’s “Trenches to Foxholes” website

For more information about the 365th Fighter Group, visit www.hellhawks.org.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks

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Two Airmen, one war: ‘I made the right decision’

The following is the first installment of a two-part series detailing two World War II Airmen and their visit to Chièvres Air Base, Belgium.

Every journey begins with a single step…

For Archie “Lin” Maltbie and Ralph Kling, their adventures began again each time they set foot on a flightline toward their Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft assigned to the Ninth Air Force’s 365th Fighter Group.

“Flying was the favorite thing for me to do,” said Maltbie, a Turlock, Calif., native.

“It’s the best thing in the world – there’s no other thing like it,” said Kling, a Ramona, Calif., native. “I fly every night in my dreams.”

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In their very early 20s, both men served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as part of the Allied air campaign over Europe following the D-Day invasion in the summer and winter of 1944 during World War II.

And like thousands of their fellow young Americans, their passion for aviation and love of country intersected: ensuring a complete victory every time they got in the cockpit.

“Most of us had one thought in mind: do the most we could do on each mission so we could get the war over and go home,” Maltbie said.

Their quest to end that war from their P-47s took them through many flights and even two death-defying escapes over the skies.

But despite those episodes, they did see it through and returned home, changed men matured through the experiences of war on a scale unimagined by mankind at the time.

Now both men, aged near 90, took another first step to embark on a similar journey – setting foot on the same flightlines and rolling fields they once encountered during the war 70 years ago.

The two veterans, along with members of the 365th Fighter Group Association, toured Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, Aug. 9 – while Kling had never been there, Maltbie took off from the same runway nearly 70 years ago.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

“It’s very nostalgic – brings back a lot of memories, some of which are happy and some aren’t,” he said. “But it’s an honor to be here and be so well-received by the people.”

The installation is owned by U.S. Army Garrison-Benelux, but maintained by the U.S. Air Force’s 424th Air Base Squadron. The continued pairing of the two services represents a unique tribute to when the two merged during World War II.

In fact, Chièvres has the distinction of being the only “base” in the U.S. Army that is neither referred to as a “post” or “air field.”

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

Endless corn fields and pastures cultivated by the French-speaking Belgian farmers of Wallonia surround the base’s gates, perhaps just like it did when Allied pilots prepared for the Battle of the Bulge.

“We had some, I recall, some tough missions from here, but 70 years softens those quite a lot,” Maltbie said. “It’s amazing what 70 years will do to change locations which were in your mind and stayed with you for all these years. Then you come back to see them, and they’ve changed. Seventy years does that.” 

“I made the right decision”

The nature of the Allied invasion led Maltbie to spend most of his flying missions dive-bombing military convoys and attacking airfields, railroads and marshalling yards.

“Many times, we’d have fighter sweeps and hopefully find some Luftwaffe to tangle with,” he said. “In general, we just tried to help the troops move forward.”

But a seemingly routine flight over the skies of France could very well have been his last.

Both he and his wingman scouted the countryside at low-level in their P-47s Aug. 14, 1944. As the two aircraft climbed altitude to rejoin their fellow fighters in the air, two enemy Messerschmitt ME-109 fighters began attacking the squadron.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

“When we caught up to the approximate altitude that we had flown down from, I spotted three German aircraft off to my left at about 10 o’clock high,” he recalled.

With his duty to protect ground forces in mind, Maltbie closed in on the three enemy fighters before noticing two more just below to his right.

He turned his P-47 toward them and fired, just as he has done many times before.

So far, so good… until…

“The Luftwaffe plane blew up… then I ran through the debris and set my plane on fire,” he said. “A few moments later, there was gasoline bubbling up through the floor of the cockpit and flames coming out of the engine.”

Maltbie jettisoned from his cockpit into the wild blue yonder at the precise moment his already-grave situation could have become much worse.

“I was only out of the plane by a few seconds when my plane blew up,” he said. “So I made the right decision.”

Back on French soil, Maltbie met up with citizens friendly to the Allies who helped him evade potential capture. He eventually returned to flying status and continued fighting until the war’s conclusion.

Seventy years later, the P-47 pilot and his fellow countrymen have witnessed the advent of more capable weapons of warfare that have virtually removed all human involvement.

“The days of the fighter pilot dogfights are a thing of the past,” Maltbie said.

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

Today’s Airmen may have added the shadowy undercurrents of cyberspace as a theater for battle. Yet Maltbie observed how the human element is still highly valued despite the decades of technological advancements.

“People do appreciate your service – they don’t forget over the years,” said Maltbie about today’s Airmen. “I’ve got over 90 years of life, and 70 since the service, and people still remember.”

When asked about words of wisdom for 21st century Airmen, Maltbie said he drew inspiration behind a quote from U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Americans value freedom and would rather die on their feet than live on their knees.”

“All intelligent men learn from history,” Maltbie added.

To be continued with Kling’s story “…and I was freed.”

Two Airmen, One war, countless thanks 

To see more photos from the event, visit Spangdahlem’s Flickr page.

For more information on stories like this one, visit U.S. Army Benelux’s “Trenches to Foxholes” website.

For more information about the 365th Fighter Group, visit www.hellhawks.org.  

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Oh! Snap! Vol. 12

Good morning Saber Nation! It’s hard to believe a month has gone by since our last edition of Oh! Snap! It is as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And Saber Nation has been doing just that, having fun — BUT with a lot of hard work in between and we have the photos to prove it. Check it out!

Super Saber Appreciation Day (July 4, 2014)

Super Saber Appreciation Day

Super Saber Appreciation Day

Super Saber Appreciation Day

98th International Four Days Marches Nijmegen (July 15-18, 2014)

100 mile road to 'Glory'

100 mile road to 'Glory'

Senior NCO Induction Ceremony (July 18, 2014)

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52nd Fighter Wing Assumption of Command (July 11, 2014)

52 FW AoC 17

52 FW AoC 14

70th Anniversary of the crash of two B-17s over Luxembourg (July 12, 2014)

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Marathon Airman (July 8, 2014)

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Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight training (July 2, 2014)

EOD training

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REQUIEM: Luxembourg, US commemorate 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

If you’ve recently seen a map of Europe, you may be forgiven if you can’t point out Luxembourg.

The tiny country, with its nearly 500,000 citizens, is not even a thousand square miles in area. To put that in perspective, Rhode Island is both bigger in size AND population.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

But the fact that the country is still on the map is a testament to the dedication of its people as well as the sacrifice of others made on their behalf during World War II.

It’s also not lost on many Luxembourgers, particularly as many towns throughout the countryside feature memorial sites in honor of those who gave their lives to ensure the nation remained free.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Roger Feller, a Perlé, Luxembourg, native and honorary commander of the 52nd Operations Group, was 8 years old during the summer of 1944 — a summer marked by desperation, hope and eventual liberation. He recounted the time he met an American Soldier, a welcome sight for the young boy who spent years under Axis control.

“I handed him a bottle to drink, and he handed me back something black,” Feller said. “I showed it to my mother, and she told me to go ahead and eat it. That was the first time I ever had chocolate.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Feller’s culinary anecdote is just one among many stories from those who greeted the Allies after the liberation of Luxembourg in September 1944. But some of those tales don’t end with exchanging sweets or drinks — they often entail a loss of life on a grand scale.

Sadly, Feller’s town of Perlé is no exception. It serves as a shrine to freedom as well as a memorial for those who came from afar and later died there to preserve that same freedom.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Considering there were nearly 5,000 U.S. B-17 bomber aircraft used in the war, the odds of two of them crashing into each other would seem inestimable. But as trivial as finding out that number may seem, no statistician could truly determine a quantity to measure the gratitude the Luxembourgers felt for them, even 70 years after a crash of that nature occurred.

More than 200 Luxembourgers, Americans and Germans gathered at Perlé July 12, 2014, for a memorial ceremony to celebrate the sacrifice of 18 fallen U.S. Army Air Corps Airmen. The Airmen served aboard two B-17s – “Curley’s Kids” and “Off Spring” – that collided above the skies of the city July 12, 1944.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

“We pause to give thanks to those who have shown the way of freedom by giving their own lives and heeding the call to defend Luxembourg,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Sean Randall, 52nd Fighter Wing chaplain, during his invocation. “Bless us all present here today as we honor those who gave their lives. Provide, protect and propagate freedom for this great country and throughout the world.”

According to the program’s flier furnished by the 385th Bomb Group Memorial and Museum, the aircraft assigned to the 8th Air Force flew from Great Britain with a target of Munich, located deep in the Axis-controlled south of Germany. Inexplicably, the two aircraft collided in mid-air over the city July 12, 1944.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Of the 20 crewmembers on board both planes, only two would survive: Sgt. Larry Atiyeh from “Curley’s Kids” and Sgt. Robert McPherson from “Off Spring.”

The townspeople carried the bodies to a school — the place that would eventually become the 385th Bomb Group Memorial Museum. At the time of the crash, Luxembourg still endured Axis occupation. Yet, after the eventual liberation, Perlé held a memorial service at its church Oct. 17, 1944.

“I’ve had the fortune of being able to participate in several of these in this 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Noel T. Jones, vice commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa command. “Each of them is touching and reminds me and our armed forces of how truly grateful the men and women of the nations of Europe were for our American participation and those of our allies.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

The general said he shared those experiences with many of his peers stationed in the United States who may have never been stationed in Europe.

“While this year is significant numerically, as the 70th anniversary, the emotion that is felt and expressed and thankfulness that is displayed by the nations and the cities and the men and women who were liberated by our allies and our forces is a daily occurrence,” he said. “They, along with I, share our gratefulness for your remembrance.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

The memory of the fallen Airmen takes a center stage at the town’s 385th Bomb Group Memorial and Museum established in 1999. The museum features a collection of personal effects from the war including pieces of debris from the crash itself.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

“We honor them – we grieve for them – we give thanks for them and for the many thousands of others like them who left their homes and their families to venture far and wide in the defense of freedom and to fight tyranny,” said Thomas Gagnon, president of the 385th Bomb Group Association. “What [the citizens of Perlé] did 70 years ago for the crews of Off Spring and Curley’s Kids and for others lost in that war and your continuing dedication to their memories forever assures you a special place in our hearts.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

The memorial ceremony concluded with a wreath laying at both the B-17 memorial in the town center as well as the one commemorating all local World War II victims from the village.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

“Today, we are here to stop, think of and celebrate the greatness and courage of heroes like these Airmen who left their blood here in Perlé,” said Jeffry Olesen, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg. “We have a duty and an obligation to remember the fallen soldiers of World War II. We must never forget the sacrifices they made in the name of freedom, and we must continue to tell the stories of those tragic days to a younger generation. The fact that so many people are gathered here today symbolizes and celebrates the enduring friendship between our two nations and its people. We must guarantee that the values of friendship, liberty and peace for future generations.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

After the ceremony, the townspeople hosted their guests for dinner at an establishment that once served as a clinic for Soldiers under the command of U.S. Army Gen. George Patton. The gathering for the local cuisine also marked a unique observance as both American and German guests – the leading nations on opposite sides of the conflict decades ago – came together as long-standing allies to pay tribute to the fallen war dead.

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

That opportunity to bring the descendants of the two nations to Luxembourg may have been a fitting tribute to Luxembourg, a small country with a rich history of persisting endurance. Yet, for Feller, the occasion stood to bring focus on those men on board those aircraft 70 summers ago.

“This is a day to celebrate the lives and legacy of those 18 men,” Feller said. “I’ve been able to live a life in freedom and peace because of what they gave for me and my village. We must never forget them.”

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

Crew of the Off Spring B-17 G / 42-31917
Capt. Richard B. White
2nd Lt. Patrick J. Flanagan
2nd Lt. Clarence E. Gittins
Flight Officer James W. Johnston
Staff Sgt. Marvin W. Nieman
Staff Sgt. Harry E. Fitzwater
Staff Sgt. William Lord, Jr.
Staff Sgt. Homer Comegys
Staff Sgt. Samuel L. Canter
Staff Sgt. Robert P. McPherson (Survived)

Crew of Curley’s Kids B-17 G / 42-102606
1st Lt. Robert L. McDonald
2nd Lt. Stephen F. Ryan
2nd Lt. William T. Henry
Flight Officer Francis M. Chrisman
Staff Sgt. Russel Hale
Staff Sgt. Peter J. Heffernan
Staff Sgt. Walter R. Berosh
Staff Sgt. Peter Linton
Tech. Sgt. George E. Brown
Staff Sgt. Larry Atiyeh (Survived)

Requiem: Luxembourgers, U.S. honor 70th anniversary of B-17 crashes

To see more photos from the event, visit Spangdahlem’s Flickr Page.

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The power of words – Anne Frank’s 70-year echo

I’ve been told more than once that I have an unusual desk at work. I can’t lie about this—I try to make it stand out with my books, photos and knick-knacks. I mean, how often would you see a Theodore Roosevelt action figure, a Chris Farley bobblehead, a plaque of John F. Kennedy, and pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry S. Truman and in the same place?

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Well, I feel this eclectic mix represents what I value or symbolizes the traits I wish to emulate at work and in my life. But, given the complaint of a potential eye sore, if I had to keep just one item by my desk, it’d be a simple postcard I got 12 years ago that has a special meaning to me.

It’s an illustration of Anne Frank, sporting a yellow star while writing in her diary, with her signature and the following excerpt from her world-renowned diary: “…in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

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The card came from the Holocaust Museum and Memorial at Washington, D.C, which I visited in March 2003. At the time, I was a high school student with my family stationed in Germany. I’ve found a mixture of hope and solace in reading that statement, written by Frank in the most trying circumstances July 15, 1944, just weeks from their eventual capture by Axis forces.

Now that I’m stationed in Germany, I’m glad I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam July 5, 2014, as part of the 52nd Force Support Squadron’s Information, Tickets and Travel tour, to see Anne Frank’s House and a nearby statue in her memory. While preparing for this trip, I re-examined the significance of this card and statement, particularly nearing the 70th anniversary of when she wrote it.

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Like many of you, I first learned about Frank in elementary school. My fourth-grade teacher, Mr. DiJohn, used his lectures to paint these sweeping images of troop movements across Europe as well as details about the deals made and broken by national leaders as the war unfolded.

Who needed “Star Wars,” Saturday morning cartoons or comic books? We’d learn about Allied heroes like Chester Nimitz, Audie Murphy and Dwight Eisenhower as they were pitted against villains like Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini. Those sessions were captivating to me and my fellow 10 year olds’ active imaginations, and we couldn’t wait to hear how the war would unfold.

But our collective attention truly focused when Mr. DiJohn shifted gears, moving from grand-scale international battle outlines to talking about one Jewish girl and her family in Amsterdam. It was the classic macro vs. micro approach to highlighting a conflict that made any narrative so compelling – “here’s the story of the War from a kid’s perspective – a kid like me?!”

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Now, I’m not Jewish nor am I a girl, but those traits never diluted how her life story about how war can transform anyone, even if they’re not a soldier. Reading excerpts from her diary and watching the film about her family’s ordeal stuck with us longer than reciting battle dates or country’s leaders. She was a kid, just like us, who displayed courage and optimism in hard times not through bullets or brutality but through her words in a journal.

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The Holocaust is a heavy subject to teach children at any age. We knew the Axis powers were evil — we just had no idea how much until we read from her stories of fear of potentially going to a concentration camp. We didn’t grasp appreciation of extravagances we took for granted until reading how excited she was to receive things like slices of cheese and jam for holiday presents instead of 16-bit video game consoles (hey, I was in the fourth grade in 1994).

While we’ve increased our video game capabilities since 1944 and 1994, we’ve also expanded our outlets to broadcast our innermost thoughts. Now that I’m going to be 30 soon and work as a photojournalist for the Air Force, I wonder how Anne Frank’s story would have fared in an age of social media, with Tweets and blogs and status updates?

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Or, in an age of #Selfies aimed at getting a multitude of “likes” and celebrity relationship statuses absorbing so much attention, would her thoughts about hiding in fear and feelings for fellow housemate Peter have carried less meaning? Furthermore, would anyone have paid attention to her in the current cacophony of celebrity-driven drivel?

But even though it was 70 years ago and before our technological terms, Anne Frank had one key qualification to demand anyone’s attention today: She was being herself.

She was hopeful even when she had every reason not to be. She reserved that notion for all people — I assume even the people who created the conditions forcing her family into hiding.

She shared her feelings on family, faith and equality not as a platform for a social movement, but as a reaffirmation to herself of what she believed in and what she would work for if she was given a chance.

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Sadly, she wasn’t able to achieve her dream. She was captured, sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and died there sometime in March 1945—just days before its liberation by the Allied forces. But her words lived on as an example for others on how they could make the most of their lives with the power of words and ideals — the very same notions that she chose to believe “in spite of everything.”

Interestingly, she stated if she lived past the war that she wanted to be a journalist. And, in re-reading her diary ahead of my trip to Amsterdam, my mind went back to that classroom lecture with Mr. DiJohn and my class.

Then it hit me. Subconsciously, I realized from reading about her aspirations when I was 10 I formed mine as a writer one day, too.

I like to think that Anne’s favorite book would have been the same as mine: a blank one. While bearing nothing but empty pages, they serve as ones we can write our thoughts and dreams. Whether anyone else reads them doesn’t matter – but if they do, the words should speak about the writer as much as they do on their own.

While seeing her statue and former home, I realized that we may try to build legacies that outlast our lifetimes … in the end, it’s something more simple, like our words, that last forever.

Our words matter — let them stand for something, but let it be for something good.

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The sentence from “The Diary of a Young Girl” is used with approval from the Anne Frank House. No copyright infringement intended. To learn more about the Anne Frank House, www.annefrank.org. For more information on the 52nd FSS trips, visit www.52fss.com.

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Been There, Done That gets EXTREME!

Usually when you take a bunch of lunatics screaming, “extreme!” every five minutes, you’ve got all the essential elements of a plot for a reality TV show. Throw said band of lunatics in a raft, paragliding harness, or repelling rig, and you’ve got the makings for a pretty awesome weekend in Austria. Did I mention I was one of those lunatics? Extreme!

Outdoor Recreation’s Extreme Weekend trip to Austria includes white water rafting, canyoning, and your choice of paragliding or sky diving. It’s an adventure a step above your average city tour when it comes to thrills and adrenaline. In some cases, it was more of a leap off a mountain then a step.

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Austria never failed to take my breath away, no matter the angle I viewed it from, and this trip certainly offered plenty of opportunities to look. Whether I was repelling down a waterfall or floating 3,000 feet in the air, Austria offers so much more than can fit into a single weekend. I came back with some bruises, amazing memories, and dozens of things I still wanted to do.

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So if you’re looking for an adventure on the wild side, why not plan your own extreme weekend trip or check out what Outdoor Rec has to offer. I might have been to Austria, but I’m certainly not ready to cross it off the done list just yet. I’ll hold off on the extreme adventuring for a while though and try out something a little more relaxing instead. Kayaking anyone?

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Oh Snap! Vol. 11

Greetings Saber Nation and welcome to another edition of Oh! Snap! We gathered the best photos of the month that captured the hard work our Spangdahlem Airmen do on a daily basis. Check out the accomplishments you’ve made this month defending our nation’s freedoms while building partnership capacity every single day!

606th ACS returns

Airmen from the 606th Air Control Squadron return from joint NATO training in Poland.

52nd CES Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Members of the EOD team demonstrate some of their capabilities for 52nd Mission Support Group leadership.

Diamond Sharp Breakfast 23 June 2014

Fifteen Spangdahlem Airmen received special recognition for exemplary performance as part of the First Sergeants Council Diamond Sharp recognition program.

'This is SO Awesome!' 52nd CES Career Day

Hundreds of School Age Program children honked car horns, moved bulldozers and scooped up dirt in various heavy equipment vehicles during the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron’s Career Day.

Sabers jog for Joe during memorial 5K

Sabers Jog for Joe during memorial 5K run.

Decontamination Exercise - 23

Spangdahlem medics participate in decontamination training.

Polish community embraces US Airmen

Spangdahlem Airmen were invited to the Lask Special Education School’s summer festival, in Poland.

"Freedom is never free"

U.S. Air Force Airmen and Polish citizens of Lodz honored fallen Airmen at the spot they were buried in 1945 with a new memorial.

US Airmen support combined exercises with NATO

A 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels distribution operator runs a fuel hose out to refuel a returning U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Lask Air Base, Poland.

US Airmen support combined exercises with NATO

Polish fire rescue men stand watch over U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft refueling operations at a hot refueling pit at Lask Air Base, Poland.

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