Honor Roll

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It was wartime. Flyers were needed. Badly needed. Some who shouldn't become an aviator in peacetime, became aviators anyway in wartime. Some caused mistakes and flew anyway- they learned painful lessons and never repeated them. Winning a war against two experienced enemies was more important than an occasional error in judgement. As you know, most air casualties in World War II were non-combat related: training, formation flying [at night, in fog, in rain, in snow], pilot error, simple negligence, on rare occasion gross misconduct, caused the majority of aviation deaths- both on the Allied and enemy sides. Leadership forgave all but the most egregious errors. Sadly, some of the most egregious flying errors took other innocent lives.

A flight crew on a training flight over friendly territory, far away from the fighting, thought they would be back at their base and on the ground a few hours later to have coffee and eat lunch, and have a pass to go into town later that night-all killed. One week before Christmas. A very unpleasant Christmas for seven families back in the States in 1944. From the time of the squadrons of the 61st TCG were formed stateside, until the 61st TCG was disestablished shortly after the war ended in May 1945, there were 105 deaths that the Chaplain had to attend to, 31 were combat-related deaths (shootdown, fratricide, ditching) of the 61st TCG members- 30%; and there were 74 non-combat related deaths- 70% (training flight mid-air collisions, bad weather, ground accidents, drunkenness, unexplained).

The December 4, 1944 loss- though not related to flying or human life- was appalling- they burned 800 pounds of records. Records that told more about what our fathers, grandfathers,great-grandfathers, uncles and great-uncles had accomplished.

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