WWII fighter pilots coming to town
June 2, 2003
Ted Conlin and his buddies will tell lots of stories during this week’s 357th Fighter Group Western Mini Reunion in Carson City.
Tom McKinney of South Carolina might describe the time in 1944 he was in his P51 Mustang escorting B17 and B24 bombers over Berlin when Hermann Goering, the head of the German air force, emerged from his bunker.
Legend has it Goering looked up at the American fighter planes and remarked, “We’ve lost the war.”
Conlin might describe the Easter card he got this year from German pilot Richard Franz, who shot down 25 Allied aircraft during the war.
“This is a man that I came within two eyelashes of destroying 59 years ago,” he said. “I was right behind him, and I had my gun sights on him, and I knew how to use them.”
On that day in 1944 over Holland, the German pilot’s partner shot down Conlin’s wingman, killing him, so Conlin had to break off and engage him.
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The 357th Fighter Group holds national reunions with about 200 attendees every two years.
“But we wanted to meet more often that every two years,” said Conlin. He expects about 30 vets to attend. Starting Tuesday night, they stay at the Carson Station Best Western Hotel on Carson Street.
The event was organized by Carson’s Mike Wyatt, whose father, Hal, flew in the fighter group. Hal Wyatt died of natural causes in 1982.
“My dad never much talked much about the war,” said Mike Wyatt. His curiosity lead him to search for “357th fighter group” on the Internet, where he found his father in the group’s hall of fame.
He was invited to a reunion in Laughlin last year.
“They are wonderful people,” he said. “I mean just great bunch. I was so impressed by these people that if my wife and I can help them in any way, we will.”
The group’s visit to Carson will include a Wednesday morning tour of the Carson City Airport. There, Neal Weaver will show them two P51s, a B25 Mitchell bomber and an F86 Saber jet.
“That’s the one that really turned around the engagement in Korea,” said Conlin.
They’ll also visit Virginia City, spend an evening at the Wyatts’ home, tour the Naval Air Station at Fallon and have lunch in the officers’ club; and dine at the Station Grill.
Attendees will include retired Col. Harry Williams and his wife, Virginia, of Carson ; triple ace Bud Anderson; John Skara, Anderson’s wing man; Roland Wright, known as “the flying Mormon;” retired Col. Henry Piper, who was a classmate of Conlin’s; and retired Col. Arval Roverson, famous for the nude nose art on his Mustang, “the Passion Wagon.”
The group gets smaller every year, said Conlin.
“That’s part of the reason we wanted to meet more often,” he said.
“We’re losing some of the good ones, we really are,” Watt said.
For more information
Call: Ted Conlin at (562) 425-8751 or e-mail email@example.com
357th fighter group: http://www.cebudanderson.com/357fg.htm
357th fighter group: http://www.franka.clara.net/