It has been over ten years since the 44th Bomb Group Veterans Association evolved from the Heritage Memorial Group in 1994. Let's review the progress and accomplishments of the Association since then. It is, we think, a rather remarkable record which is to the credit of you, the members.

In late November, 1994 we had 577 paid members on the roster. We now have 865 and are still growing! Rather amazing in an age when veterans associations of the span from WW II through the Cold War are suffering the attrition of age. Even among the earliest of the WW II 44th veterans we are still finding new members every month. They are happy we have found them, eager to join and what's more they still have plenty of fuel in the tank!

In terms of memorials and displays, we have erected bronze memorial plaques at MacDill AFB in Tampa Florida (where the 44th BG was activated) and Barksdale AFB Louisiana (where the 44th trained two other B-24 groups before it was sent to England).

We contributed $6,265 to a fund for the sculpture of a 1/6 scale bronze model B-24 now in place in the Air Force Academy Court of Honor.

Our proudest and most ambitious project to date was our response to the Mighty Eighth Heritage Museum invitation to contribute a display to the Museum. We undertook to fund, design and construct a three dimensional 8'x10' display honoring the 44th's finest moments over the target at the Ploesti Oil Refinery, Romania on August 1, 1943.

For those of you who have not personally seen the display in Savannah, it symbolizes the entire attack of the 44th. It depicts the four ship lead element led by Col. Leon Johnson in Suzy Q at the instant before "bombs away" over "Target Blue 5" flying into the smoke and flames from the exploding and burning oil storage tanks. Keith St. Aubin, a renowned model maker for the movie industry was commissioned to build the B-24D model aircraft. The diorama of the refinery was replicated in scale by the Atlanta, Georgia chapter of the International Model Makers Association. Our diorama has been described as the preeminent display of the museum.

Another in-progress project is the renovation of a B-24J. It is located in the Memory Lane section of the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale AFB. They invited the 44th BGVA to renovate the B-24 and have it painted with the 44th Logo appropriate markings and named "Louisiana Belle" after a former 68th airplane. Mike Yuspeh, a Board member and Reunion Chairman from New Orleans, gained the interest and support of the Louisiana Legislature, the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and the Isle of Capri Hotel & Casino. They offered to collectively underwrite the entire project. The unveiling and dedication of the "Louisiana Belle" was the centerpiece of our 2001 reunion. There was participation by all the contributing agencies including the 8th Air Force Commander and staff members.

The major project we are most focused on now is our 44th Bomb Group Military Heritage Database Program. This is a computer based program that will preserve the history of the 44th BG in perpetuity. It will include all missions, aircraft, targets, flight crews, support personnel, individual biographies, including stories, experiences and interesting events.

This Historical Data Base will, no doubt, be the most important project we ever accomplish. It is our aim to have every man and woman assigned to the the 44th Bomb Group in their WW II service included in this history. To include those deceased, we can make family contact and obtain access to the military records, diaries or correspondence left by the veteran. Please send us an e-mail for a biography to be mailed to you.

Many have not recorded their 44th service experience in any form, on paper, film or tape, and these memories will soon be lost forever. We are talking about your history and we want to record it before you become history!

All we ask is for you to fill out the easy to follow, Biographic Entry Form, typed or in long-hand. Send it in with a picture of yourself taken during WW II and a current photo. If you have a crew photo (Flight, Ground, Section, or whatever) include it with identities of those in the photo. Send along a short story about any exciting, humorous or frightening experiences you had.

All the archive material in the National Archives has been extracted, copied and entered in our database already. Thus far we have logged 345 missions consisting of over 8400 sorties including each target, planes flown, and individual crew members aboard. This is all on a Compact Disk which, at a future date, your great grandchildren (and theirs) can go to a library, check out the disk, put it in the library computer and call up your entire wartime service history. All we are waiting for is the personal input you would like for your descendents to know and see.

If your are not a member, you are missing the comradeship of the people who shared one of the most valuable experiences of your life. We are all part of the 44th Family. For those who are members, we hope you have enjoyed this update on what you all have accomplished. You are to be complimented.

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Last modified: 02/11/17