The boys of wicked war, so many decades ago, gathered again as we’ve done since 1946. This year we went to the deep south while all of the southern port lands were engulfed in America’s biggest bath in precious costly oils that soar at our every pump.
But the 49th Bomb Group came prepared for “hell and oily waters,” and as once-great soldiers, we all came to see each other once again. God willing.
Our dynamic past president, Anthony Bianchi, was back in Rhode Island protecting his sister from Rhode Island’s invasive tides, but we were able to install our first vice president, Emil Serva, as president. Emil, with wife Margaret always at his side, lives in Panama City, Florida and was fearful of the “oil-baths” roaring through southern waters. But in Emil’s many years of war, he learned to grin and face it; quite proud to succeed so many airmen who served the 49th Bomb Group on some 60 bombing missions, first out of the Palau Islands base on Anguar raining hell on Philippine targets. The ground crews had a 45-day ordeal on a troop ship to get full support of ground crews and vital materials, the Voyages of the Sea Sturgeon. Our four squadrons were of great aid, setting a safer path for American Marines to soon capture vital Phillippine bases and island forts.
This year’s trip was highlighted by memorial services for our dearly departed mates, conducted aboard ship after a very hospitable trip, watching the magic of the Old South and its trees, all a flower much earlier than ours up north.
We were hosted so sweetly by a women’s group showing us the treasures of their southern mansions and sitting these now-grounded airmen down to delicious bouts of tea and southern goodies.
Anita and Lionel Cohen of Virginia, this year’s vet, who hosted the reunion left no detail uncovered.
Celebrating one night at an unusual dinner, we dined while a mystery took place by a cast that acted and roamed past our tables. There were stage police tailing some of the suspects, while we in the audience were asked “who dun it.” A most unusual performance, but well-staged with a live and lively cast.
The topic of conversation of this bunch of guys is always “Where will we meet next year?” To which I always mutter “With the help of God, please.” But the chairman announced the executive decision “Chicago.”
Early that Monday morning, we gathered for a great Holiday Inn breakfast where sad so-longs were said to great buddies that we traveled to shake hands with once again. The large and sumptuous breakfast was aided by Miss Mobile Carol Peterson, the most able house hostess. My own arduous journey home was aided at the outset by a new found buddy Al Locrenniere, of Weatherfield Connecticut, and my buddy from North Dakota just north of my own birthplace in Redfield, South Dakota. Rain delay hit all of us going home. The South was crying good-buy buddies. But as I said to Al going home, when he noted that we came with a cane and a walker, obviously handicapped. “We are all brothers under the skin. We suffered the same mosquitoes; had that same Japanese enemy and the will to get our share of the same paltry rations, we faced a common evil enemy. How could I stay home, where I’d never get to meet a great buddy like you?”
Next year in Chicago. With the help of God, please.