Wings Over Wayne Airshow

2017

Wings Over Wayne Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Airshow

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45 Don Blakeslee, group commander, called the entire group together," Doc said. "Now, what is significant about that date is, that's the day before D- Day. And he calls everybody together. And these are not rookies, we had 81 Aces in WWII. A lot of these guys had been Eagle Squadron pilots. I mean, this was the ultimate 'been there, done that' group," he said. There was a feeling that the Germans had been holding back in anticipation of D-Day, Doc explains. Their jet fighters and rocket planes and everything else, they were holding them off to the side in anticipation of D-Day, and when D-Day happened, they were going to throw everything including the kitchen sink at us, he continued. "Blakeslee thought there was a chance this was true. So he got up in front of everybody, and says, 'Gentlemen, tomorrow is D-Day. We are throwing Canadian, American, British armies into Fortress Europe –– Normandy –– and until our armies are ashore and fighting the Nazis, we can't win,'" Doc said. Now, there is nothing harder than assaulting a fortified beachhead. And the Germans knew they were coming. They didn't know exactly where, but they knew. They'd been getting ready, Doc explained. And Blakeslee continued, he said. "'In many ways, this is going to be the most important day in the history of civ- ilization. We're close enough to the beaches that we may fly three, four, five missions to support the beachhead," Doc said. "And he talked about how this could be a really rough day," the gravel-tone in Doc's voice intentionally drops an octave to impart the gravity of the message. "Then he kind of paused, and he looked around the room and he said, 'Gentlemen, if at the end of the day we have established a firm beach head in Europe, if we have landed our army suc- cessfully, and not one of you make it back alive, that's OK.' "And the entire room looked at him and was like, 'You got it. Yes, sir. We're in." "And to me, that is what this wing is all about." Continued from 36 There were losses. Despite the ground crews' best efforts, and the many precautions taken in planning and executing the air campaign, this was after all a war. "The one air crew we did lose, Majs. Tom Koritz and Donnie Holland. We lost them both the second night of the war," Sloan said. Their F-15E was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, he said. "And then the fourth night of the war, our director of operations, who we now call the (operations) group commander, Col. Dave Eberly and Maj. Tom Griffith were shot down," Sloan said. According to the SJAFB website, the two men ejected and man- aged to evade capture for several days before being taken as pris- oners of war and were held until the end of the war. "When we went over there, we were told we were facing the fifth largest military in the world. They had very sophisticated airplanes from the Soviets and the French, they had a fantastic air defense system also built by the French," Sloan said. "We thought it was going to be some pretty tough going. And it was. They had a lot of air defenses; a lot of surface to air capability." Continued from Page 41 Miracle in the Desert Fourth but First

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