8th Air Force Historical Society’s Fly for Freedom Event Was a Success

The Wisconsin State Chapter of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, was jam packed with activities on September 12. This marked the annual Fly For Freedom II event called “Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy The Flight.”

The festivities began with a Badger Bus Freedom Ride from Racine and the War Bird Museum located in Waukegan, Illinois. 50 Members of the 8th Air Force Historical Society plus 30 veterans saw unique aircraft used during WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Resort Storm. The Wart Bird Museum displays aircraft from all the U.S. wars.

The members went to the EAA Chapter 838 Hangar Museum in Racine. Here they met with 50 other members of the same chapter and supporters in Racine. A dinner and a ceremony was held to recognize 17 WWII vets who represent the Air Force, Army, and Navy at Casa Di Giorgio Restaurant.

The Journal Times reports the WWII Honorees included:

* Harvin Abrahamson: 8th Air Force technical sergeant, radio operator gunner, B-17, 17 missions, current chaplain 8th AFHS.

* Lt. Col. Ralph Anderson: 8th Air Force bombardier, later for inspectors general, Pentagon.

* Bill Bergner, 8th Air Force, radar operator and technician, former president and current editor 8th AFHS.

* Sebastian Corriere: Carpetbagger, 492 BG, dropping agents in European Theater.

* Al Exner: Navy Corpsman, surgical technician, European and Pacific Theater.

* Chet Gardeski: 8th Air Force technical sergeant, flight engineer, gunner, current 8 AFHS board member.

* Art Grisa: 8th Air Force; radio, waist, tail and ball turret gunner, and bombardier.

* Merle Hayden: 5th Air Force Armament, worked with Thunderbolts in Pacific Theater.

* Hugo Niemi: 8th Air Force, quarter master trucking and air technician supplying fighters.

* Bob Schuh: 8th AF, aerial gunner, armorer, waist and tail gunner.

* Lt. Col. Henry Ratenski: Air Force, 315th B-29 Superfortress Bomb Wing, last mission of World War II.

* Walter Roob: 8th Air Force, Reconnaissance Division, loading cameras onto aircraft.

* Jon Rosenberg: 8th Air Force, tail gunner, B24, 34 missions, current project manager, 8 AFHS

* Owen Williams: Navy submariner, fire control man, 2nd class, USS Barb.

* Scott Welch: 8th Air Force, B-17 pilot, 32 missions followed by transport group pilot supplies/wounded.

* Ralph Windler, Army, 29th Division rifleman, three Purple Hearts, Bronze Star, Silver Star and knight in the Legion of Honor (French equivalent to U.S. Medal of Honor).

* Bill Zauner: 8th Air Force, technical sergeant, radio operator gunner, B-17, 35 missions.

There was a cake-cutting ceremony that was followed y a 22-person big band experience of the Brew City Big Band that played 1940s Glen Miller music and Radio Rosies that played Andrews Sisters favorites. Door prizes were donated by local business owners. Gold pins were given out to all the members of the 8th Air Force Historical Society who were in attendance.


Established in 1942, the 8th Air Force was named the United States combat air force. The force was stationed in England and it’s primary goal was operions in Northern Europe and strategic bombing missions of selected enemy targets in France, low countries, and Germany. They were to engage in air to air fighter combat against enemy aircraft.

The 8th Air Force was the largest unit of combat Army Air Force that deployed; this included personnel, aircraft, and equipment. It holds the highest rate of deployed units during WWII.

The Wisconsin Chapter of the 8th Air Force Historical Society will reunite all of the 8th Air Force veterans from all throughout the years.

The goal is to remember, celebrate, and honor all who served to protect our freedom, liberty, and to educate future generations.

The Wisconsin Chapter was founded 21 years ago, under the umbrella of the National 8th Air Force Historical Society of Pooler, Georgia.

The Wisconsin Chapter of the 8th Air Force Historical Society holds quarterly program meetings on the first Tuesday on the months of March, June, September (second Tuesday) and December from 11am to 2:30pm. The meetings will be held at the 128th Refueling Wing, 1835 E. Grange Ave, Milwaukee. Every meeting includes a reunion of members from all over the state, a quarterly charter meeting, a program speaker, lunch and door prizes.

The group is planning to hold the third Fly for Freedom on June 3, 2014. This will be a tour of the Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and they will be exploring the unique roles of the US Navy and sumbariners played when they rescued the air comrades.

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE