JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The 307th Bombardment Group Association held its annual reunion at the Sam Houston Community Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston May 24.
The reunion allowed members to reconnect with families and friends and to honor the 307th Bombardment Group for their valiant service to their country during World War II from April 1942 to January 1946.
The group became known as the "The Long Rangers" due to the multiple, record-setting distances flown for their combat missions which included Wake, Rabaul, Truk, Yap, Palau, Balikpapan, Borneo (the Ploesti of the East) and the Philippines.
“Our World War II veterans value the time they get to spend with their combat buddies, and they look forward every year now to the reunions and reuniting those friendships,” said Jim Walsh, 307th Bombardment Group Association president.
The 307th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was part of the 13th Air Force and consisted of the 370th, 371st, 372nd, and 424th Squadrons. The 307th Bomb Group (H) completed 625 missions in the Pacific Theater, participated in 11 campaigns, and received 2 Distinguished Unit Citations.
Many of the missions were over 17-hour unescorted roundtrips over vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
Local students from Thomas C. Clark High School Air Force Junior ROTC Color Guard presented the colors and the national anthem was sung by Loretta Garcia-Wones.
Chief Master Sergeant Casy Boomershine, Joint Base San Antonio and 502nd Air Base Wing, provided opening remarks. Brig. Gen. Russell D. Driggers, JBSA and 502nd ABW commander then spoke to the veterans, spouses, and their families.
“As I reflect this evening on the discussions so far, they have been really rich and full of history,” Driggers said. “It’s important that we honor our World War II veterans and continue to grow that honor towards Korean veterans, Vietnam veterans, and those who follow.”
Also in attendance were two World War II veterans who were recognized and honored by the group: Sgt. Dale Stickrath, 371st Bombardment Squadron, ball turret operator; and Staff Sgt. Earl J. McGuire, 370th Bombardment Squadron Engineer, top turret operator.
“I have not gotten used to all this attention. At my age, you really don’t get excited about anything in particular,” McGuire said. “I just like coming to the reunions to see friends, especially my dearest, closest friends, but now they all have gone.”
The group members shared stories with one another and said they became members of the organization in order to feel closer to each other.
“I’m excited because we get the chance to talk to these men and to hear about their or their father’s stories,” said Amy Russell, 307th Bomb Wing historian. “I encourage everyone to tell your stories, tell your parent’s stories and encourage your children to do the same. We all have a story, and we all have something that gives us purpose.”
The event was a reminder to remember the men who served during those harsh times, stood up to the task and prevailed.
“Our World War II veterans are dwindling fast, and this year, we have only two at our reunion,” Walsh said. “Our hope is to keep the annual reunions going to keep their memories and their history alive.”