15th Annual World War II Heritage Days Honors MoH Recipients

The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) is a little-known non-profit organization dedicated to preserving vintage aircraft and sharing the history of yesterday with today. This year, for the 15th year in a row, Georgia’s CAF Dixie Wing hosted the Annual World War II Heritage Days at the Warbird Museum located at Falcon Field, Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree, Georgia.

Attendees came from all over the world. This year’s focus, naturally, was to give special recognition to the Air Force. There were many opportunities for interested attendees to take flight in vintage aircraft.

The locally-famed Red Nose Dixie Wing Plane was a special draw. The Gulf Coast’s Texas Raiders brought their newly-restored B-17 Bomber as well – always a crowd-pleaser. All of Dixie’s vintage aircraft shuttled would-be ‘soldiers’ through an imaginary air battle, rife with woeful tales of the day.

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘0-85738 / K’ “Preston’s Pride”. Photo: Alan Wilson / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress ‘0-85738 / K’ “Preston’s Pride”. Photo: Alan Wilson / CC-BY-SA 2.0

Medal of Honor recipient Benny Adkins, representing all holders of this highest and most prestigious military award, received a Dixie Wing salute. Adkins, from California, was a Sergeant First Class with the 5th Special Forces Group and was awarded the medal in 1966 during the Vietnam War after distinguishing himself in the ‘Battle of Shau’. He was also officially recognized by the top officers in the air force.

When Adkins’ camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force early one morning in March 1966, Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position and continually adjusted fire for the camp despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars.

Benny Adkins receiving Medal of Honor.
Benny Adkins receiving Medal of Honor.

Upon discovering that many soldiers were injured near the center of camp, he turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar fire, and dragged several comrades to safety. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins was exposed to sporadic sniper fire while carrying his wounded comrades to the camp dispensary.

When Adkins and his group of defenders came under heavy fire from members of the Civilian Irregular Defense Group that had defected to fight with the North Vietnamese, he maneuvered outside the camp to evacuate a seriously-wounded American and draw fire all the while successfully covering the rescue.

The CAF group from Phoenix brought five genuine Medals of Honor, including special tributes to the 16 Hispanic honorees of World War II from The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa, Arizona. The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force was also there with a similar display paying tribute to 17 airmen of their own.

B-17 bomber at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) – CC BY-SA 4.0
B-17 bomber at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) – CC BY-SA 4.0

Heritage Days is the biggest World War II event in Georgia. This year was by all accounts exceptional and they broke records for the attendance numbers. There were silent auctions, battle re-enactments, historical presentations and demonstrations.

This is in addition to the over 25 vintage planes, various historic vehicles used in the war, classic cars of the era, and educational displays – all intended to bring history alive in the present. Performances by the USO girls brought comfort to all – to soldiers, their families, and all participants – like they always have.

P-51 Mustangs of the 375th Fighter Squadron, Eighth Air Force mid-1944.
P-51 Mustangs of the 375th Fighter Squadron, Eighth Air Force mid-1944.

The goal of the event was to accentuate the 1940s as a revolutionary time frame and to celebrate the legacy of the best of our American heroes. More than 500 volunteers worked tirelessly to make this the best year ever. The popular Hangar Dance on Saturday night even sold out early.

Vendors offered plane rides, military memorabilia, collectibles, autographed prints, original WWII pin-up artwork, and countless one-of-a-kind items.

WWII Heritage Days 2016. By Brevort- CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
WWII Heritage Days 2016. By Brevort- CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you missed it this year, be sure to mark your calendar for next year. It is the premier event in Georgia (including attendees from all over the country) to honor our heroes and thank them for our freedom.