Throughout the many years since the last bloods of World War II had cried, time and occupation prevented my joining my Air Force group at the heralded annual reunion. Each year we would receive our reunion notices; each one at a different enticing location in a different state.
In each annual newsletter of the Kelley’s Kobras Group were the latest pleasantries of men once called “fly boys.” Some had travelled to our old locales, sites where we were born as a new Bomb Group in swamps called Pine Castle, Fl. Then out west many miles over the white barren salt flats of Utah. Always heading west, most of our four engine B24 planes set up on massive Wendover Air Field base bordering on the state line of Nevada and Utah. That greeted all visitors with giant “Welcome to the only state without sales tax.” “We earn our money in our casinos.”
I once left my monthly paycheck at the Elko Casino Hotel between dinner courses.
From there, we entrained by thumb to Mountain Homer Idaho, daily flying to break in our new air crews and our old. The last week in America our big bombers flew south to California while the bulk of the maintenance trainees went north to Seattle, Washington preparing to ship out to join the war in beautiful Hawaii. Our planes then joined us for the next 45 days of training; sunning and living healthy among Hawaii’s natural splendor!
However, some 45 days later our splendors splintered and our groundhogs were boarding once again. On to Honolulu and went aboard a depot — pier and our troopship sailed and wandered at sea for 45 days with food and essentials that were jammed in the bulky storage passages. Our merchant ship, the Sea Sturgeon, filled and bulged its bellies for about 48 hours until we set sail, never believing that we’d have 45 perilous days and nights at sea!
We passed islands of heavy pommeling, baking on their havoc and annihilation! Once they held our enemy. Then the Japanese bodies baked in their demolished debris. Their riddled fighter and Jap bomber routinely engulfed under bomb blown palms. There were 45 days to take at sea except for four hours on a nautical relief station, a tiny South Pacific island known on Coast Guard maps as Duffy’s Tavern — named for the canteen there.
God should take us to another year and hopefully I will be able to remember some more of our trials and tribulations, our buddies, our loves, our enemies. Please God make us another year together. God be willing and we will be grateful and gracious. Amen!
My reunion mate of last year, Anthony Bianchi, a 20-year veteran, passed away just before this year’s Little Rock reunion. We shall miss this great war veteran. We admired Tony, who once arranged a burial at sea for another member of our group with ashes that were dropped over Lake Michigan from a B24. At that time this column showed a picture of Tony with an urn of ashes outside a B24 that Tony rented to fulfill that death wish.
We also recall sending Bianchi and article about an Italian American form New York City who became a mayor of a city in post war Japan. If you can believe it, Tony Bianchi took a trip to Japan and shook the hand of his Japanese namesake.
Read Lou Powsner's column every other week on BrooklynDaily.com.