Happy Birthday U.S. Air Force – 67 years and counting!!

Today marks 67 years since the 80th U.S. Congress established the U.S. Air Force as its own military branch Sept. 18, 1947. Since then, thousands and thousands of aircraft have patrolled the skies to ensure the service’s mission to fly, fight and win.

In honor of this occasion, let’s take a look at back at some of the aircraft that flew in the skies above Spangdahlem since the base’s activation May 10, 1953.

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RF-80 “Shooting Star” 1953 – 1956

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RB-26 “Invader” 1953 – 1957

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RB-57 “Canberra” 1954 – 1957

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RF-84 “Thunderjet” 1955 – 1958

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F-4D “Phantom II” 1967 – 1968
F-4D “Phantom II” 1969 – 1971
F-4D “Phantom II” 1971 – 1982
F-4E “Phantom II” 1978 – 1987

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F-4G “Phantom II” 1979 – 1991
F-4G “Phantom II” 1991 – 1994
F-16C/D “Fighting Falcon” 1987 – 1991
F-16C/D “Fighting Falcon” 1991 – Present

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A/OA-10A “Thunderbolt II” 1992 – 2013

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That’s a big gas spill

Water starts gushing out of a fire hose, and victims lay on the ground.

Airmen participate in Exercise

First responders are about to have a crazy morning.

The fire department receives a phone call, possibly for another crisis they’ll have to extinguish.

“Exercise Exercise Exercise– we have a class three fuel spill in progress!!”

Instead of fuel and real casualties, firefighters dealt with water and simulated injuries in this Sept. 12 exercise with the expectation that they were real.

With that, first responders donned in full gear arrived to the scene of the spill to determine their next move.

Airmen participate in Exercise

They quickly notice the injured Airmen and that their first priority remains to get any casualties to safety.

The distance to do that, added to the weight from their own gear, provided the fire fighters with no simple task.

Airmen participate in Exercise

Once the paramedics received the injured, the firefighters worked with water fuels systems maintenance Airmen to quickly contain and clean up the simulated fuel spill.

The maintenance Airmen, dressed in all-white suits and green visors, set up a plug in a drainage ditch to stop the fuel from further leakage.

Airmen participate in Exercise

Airmen quickly contained the area and then simulated cleaning up the spill.

All the participants came together after the exercise to see what worked and what could have gone better to make sure they’re prepared in case the real thing happens.

It might have just been water today, but it could be fuel tomorrow. Regardless, 52nd Fighter Wing Airmen constantly train for various scenarios to maintain readiness for any contingency.

Written by Airman 1st Class Dylan Nuckolls

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Tops in Blue rocks Saber Nation

As the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of nervousness, anticipation and excitement. As a first-term Airman, I had no idea what to expect from my first Tops in Blue performance.

I knew who they were and what they did, sure, but what the actual performance was like? No clue.

I had been to a musical before and it was fun – I enjoy musicals; you have actors, performers, singers and musicians putting out a symphony of audial and visual excitement all brought together by practiced choreography.

According to their mission statement posted on their website, Tops in Blue, serves as an expeditionary entertainment unit to provide quality entertainment from within Air Force resources for the Air Force family, with priority to Air Force personnel stationed worldwide at remote and deployed locations while simultaneously promoting community relations, supporting recruiting efforts and serving as ambassadors for the United States of America and the United States Air Force.

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What does that mean? Basically, Tops in Blue are service members who dedicated their time, energy and efforts to make sure that they can bring entertainment and joy to Air Force service members and their families, especially to those who are deployed to locations far away from home.

So what can one expect from an actual performance?

For those of you who are curious just as I was, here’s what went down.

The performance launched with the Singing Sabers, a group of singers from the Spangdahlem community who use their vocal talents to support ceremonies, followed by a speech by none other than our very own wing commander, Col. Pete Bilodeau. With a microphone in hand, he started the show.

“They’re celebrating their 60th year of entertaining us,” said Bilodeau. “They started in ’53 and they’ve also done movies, television shows and they even did Super Bowl performances. They’ve got 39 active-duty members that are detailed for one year and nine months out of the year they are on permissive TDY to serve us … and that’s awesome.”

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The lights dimmed, and the show, ladies and gentlemen, started with a bang.

My eyes were blitzed by a plethora of colors, lights, costumes, sets and various performances.

Even though the power went out not once, but twice during the performance, the troupe displayed hardcore professionalism and an undying dedication to their craft. Without the aid of electronic equipment during those periods of darkness and silence, Tops in Blue kept singing, even in acapella, because the show must go on.

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The group performed covers of popular songs, such as “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, complete with performers dressed up like the minions from the film “Despicable Me 2” and the singer dressed up like Pharrell Williams, and “Applause” by Lady Gaga, with three performers dressed up in suits with “hamster heads”.

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The performers also played classics like “Georgia on my Mind” by Ray Charles, “Walking in Memphis” by Mark Cohn and “My Girl” by Jackson 5.

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The children loved it when the group performed “Tale as Old as Time” from the Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” and “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen” and the audience was held emotionally captive by the tear-jerking, awe-inspiring song “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood.

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Yeah, I know. But let me tell you, it was that good.

The show came to a swirling stop with a speech by one of the performers, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeremiah Barnes, a 56th Communications Squadron cyber systems operations journeyman assigned to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and native of Nashville, Tenn.

Standing on stage with the rest of his troupe behind him, he spoke before the grand finale of the show.

“From the Korean War to Vietnam, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Tops in Blue has been there to provide quality entertainment for our brothers and sisters in arms,” said Barnes. “As we fight this global war on terrorism, Tops in Blue will continue to be where they are needed; when they are needed … we will be needed.”

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Like any great performance, the show came to a halt, leaving me blinking in the fluorescent lights of reality wondering, “What have I been doing with my life all this time? Why haven’t I seen this sooner?”

Not only did they deliver quality entertainment like they said they would, they brought feelings of warmth, pride and honor. My chest swelled and my face flushed as I realized one truth that night: I am proud to be an American, defending my people, my country and our way of life.

Looking back, I’m glad I had the honor and privilege of not just covering the performance, but being able to witness their magic firsthand and tell their tale to you. My message? Tops in Blue isn’t just a group of performers who delight in musical numbers and acts; they are our unsung singing American heroes who bring morale, joy, warmth and pride to our service members all around the world, especially to those who are very far from home.

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Would I see them again? Most definitely. Should you see one of their performances? Is that even a question?

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDw4uFAFnlk 

Blog, video and photos by Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim

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Dorm Wars: only ONE can claim victory

Fierce competition, determination and teamwork dominated Saber Nation last month as part of the second annual Dorm Wars competition.

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During the month of August, roughly 100 dormitory Airmen engaged in spirited contests over 16 different events in the competition in an effort to take home the coveted A-10 gun barrel traveling trophy.

The Dorms Wars standings were so close on the last day of the final five events, Dorm Wars officials doubled the points, making it even more crucial for determining the champion.

Fellow Airmen, supervisors, squadron, group and wing leadership came out to support the dorm Airmen competing in events ranging from flag football to billiards and paintball.

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The competition got fierce at times, but it brought Airmen to meet others not only from their own dorms but around base as well.

Defending champion, Dorm 227, came up short for a repeat this year, as Dorms 134 and 140 jointly earned the title as the Dorm Wars champion.

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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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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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