Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Family Affair

The survivors of World War II who served with the 416th Bomb Group have remained in close contact over the past 65 years and still convene annually to renew their camaraderie and visit with their ever growing family.  Although the number of veterans is diminishing all too quickly, the number of attendees at the Group reunions over the past five years has remained fairly constant.  This is due mainly to the growth of families and their intense loyalty to the patrons whom all hold in great respect and a little awe.  All of the veterans from the previous year's reunion returned this year to Branson, with the sad exception of Dick Wheeler, who passed away last December.  Joining the group this year were Ralph Conte and Dan Eastman with members of their families.

The 2010 reunion of the 416th was held at Branson, Missouri from September 8 to September 12.  Eleven veterans of this unit were present, with an overall attendance of 56 including travelers from California to Connecticut and one son of a 416th pilot who stopped over on the way to his new post in Hong Kong.  The ages ranged from two-years-old to "almost" 95-years-old and it was hard to tell at times whether the youngsters or the old-timers were having the most fun.  In addition to the traditional banquet on Saturday evening, the group enjoyed a dinner show Friday night at the Starlite Theater with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers performing.  A then-and-now video clip of the veterans was included in the show as a special tribute to the 416th.  That clip, updated slightly, is included here and is posted on YouTube at:

In order of appearance in the video are Billy Brewer (NC), Roland Dullnig (TX), Roy Burns (MO), Carl Weinert (AZ), Jack Sittarich (ND), Bob Basnett (MO), Bob Kehres (AR), Wayne Downing (CA), Ralph Conte (MO), John Freese (IL) and Dan Eastman (UT).