Saturday, November 22, 2008

Monroe Air Show Brings Back Memories

Guest Speaker - Astronaut Joe Edwards

Veterans and a Tuskegee Airman


The Monroe Veteran’s Day Celebration and Air Show presented by WARRIORS and WARBIRDS was a hugh success with more than 50,000 in attendance. The annual event at the Monroe Airport delivered as hoped!

"It's great," World War II veteran Floyd Harkey said. Standing back from a group of spectators lining the runway, Harkey recounted some of his experiences in Korea. Having served in the Air Force, he said he was familiar with many of the aircraft that were at the show, especially the P-51 and P-38 planes which he said were his favorite. Before the re-enactment of the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Harkey reflected on what the real bombing was like. He said he did not understand it at the time because he was only 15, but that he had to grow up fast after that and take on a lot of responsibility and maturity before going into the service. "I was proud to be able to do it," he said, adding that each of his three brothers also fought for their country. "I'd do it again in a minute if I could," he said. Now 82, Harkey proudly wore a hat marked "WW II Veteran" and still had a firm handshake. He didn't yell or point at the airplanes the way some youngsters did, but stood and just watched them as they flew past. "A lot of memories," he said. Another Veteran said that the Berlin Airlift Candy Bomber was the highlight of his day!

Other spectators had a different take on the show. Grant Sellers, 6, covered his ears as the planes roared overhead and said that getting to look inside the machines was his favorite part of the day. His 4-year-old brother, Logan Sellers, said he liked "the smoke coming out of the airplanes," the best and his head appeared to be on a swivel as he took it all in. Ten-year-old Caleigh Lovitt couldn't point to one event as her favorite, but said she really enjoyed watching the parachutists coming down from the sky, even adding that she was nervous for their safety.

Monroe spokesman Pete Hovanec said the event was "incredible." He added that there were 40 more planes on display than there were last year and that the "Tora-Tora-Tora" re-enactment alone would have made the event a success. "It's great out here," he said. "This is really going well."

Enquirer-Journal by Jason deBruyn. Jason can be reached at (704) 261-2243 or

Monroe Airshow 2009

Warriors & Warbirds Airshow from Steve Sherron on Vimeo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tuskegee Airman WWII Heros

Tuskegee Airman Spann Watson

The Monroe Veteran's Day Air Show was honored to have Tuskegee Airman Spann Watson as one of the speakers. Their outstanding success during World War II – not losing a single bomber to enemy fire in more than 200 combat missions – is a record unmatched by any other fighter group.

This video is about Tuskegee Airman John Leahr and his good friend WWII B-17 Commander Herb Heilbrun who grew up in the same neighborhood and were in the same third grade class together. They were classmates—not friends—because Herb was white and John was black. John and Herb were twenty-one when the United States entered WWII. Herb became an Army Air Forces B-17 bomber pilot. John flew P-51 fighter escort missions for the B-17. Both were thrown into the brutal high-altitude daylight bomber war against Nazi Germany, though they never met because the army was rigidly segregated—only in the air were black and white American fliers allowed to mix. Both came safely home but it took Herb and John another fifty years to meet again and discover that their lives had run almost side by side through war and peace. Herb and John launched a mission to tell young people why race once made all the difference and why it shouldn't anymore.  Their book "Black and White Airmen - Their True Story" by John Fleischman is great!

I was happy to find a website with a very touching story writen by the daughter of Tuskegee Airman Major Joeseph Gomer who received assistance by a local EAA chapter to attend President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tora! Tora! Tora! - A Living History Museum

Returning in 2010! (click)

Click to Enlarge

The Monroe Veteran's Day Air Show was honored to have the CAF as the highlight of their Air Show! Many people have the opportunity to travel to visit a museum but rarely does the museum come to visit you. Attending an airshow where Tora, Tora, Tora is performing is like having a 3-D Museum come to visit you. This show far exceeded anyone's expectations! My son Chuck was on duty with the Monroe Fire Department and assisted the Tora Pyrotechnics Team and was very impressed with their professionalism. The first day he worked on the terminal side of the runway and could not believe the difference working the next day next to the pyro team on the opposite side of the field - what a big BANG it was! Check back as this may be a part of the 2009 show!

Tora, Tora, Tora” is the Commemorative Air Force’s recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that signaled the beginning of the American involvement in World War II. Designed as a living history lesson, “Tora, Tora, Tora” is intended as a memorial to all the soldiers on both sides who gave their lives for their countries.

Tora, Tora, Tora began in 1972, when six replica Japanese aircraft used in the movie of the same name were donated to the CAF. The Gulf Coast Wing requested assignment of the aircraft and began developing an act for presentation at air shows. The act debuted at the Galveston Air Show on June 25, 1972. By 1977, Tora had gained national exposure. By 1978, Tora began to make international appearances in Canada and Mexico. In 1991 Tora participated extensively in the 50th anniversary year commemorations of Pearl Harbor and in 1992, Tora tackled the challenge of sending two replica Zeros to Alaska to participate in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the raid on Dutch Harbor. Throughout the 90s, Tora has been in demand at air shows throughout the country and as recently as the Spring of 2000, Tora aircraft and pilots participated in the filming of a new movie on the Pearl Harbor attack being filmed for release by Disney. As of the 2005 air show season, the men and women of Tora have been performing as a professional air show act for 33 years.

The motto of the Commemorative Air Force and the “Tora” act is “Lest We Forget.” “Tora, Tora, Tora”, as other Commemorative Air Force flying history recreations, is not intended to promote nationalism or glorify war. The intent of the Tora group is to help generations of individuals throughout the world born after World War II understand that war does not discriminate in the pain it causes and that courageous individuals on both sides lose their lives. In furtherance of this mission, the Tora group has participated in the making of numerous documentaries produced by Japanese filmmakers and Japanese historians.

The pilots and crew of “Tora, Tora, Tora” are proud of the reputation they have developed with veterans of the Japanese military as an accurate lesson on the history of the time and as a tribute to themselves and their comrades. Over the years, “Tora, Tora, Tora” has brought both American and Japanese veterans together to celebrate the spirit of cooperation our two nations have enjoyed for more than 50 years. At air shows throughout the country, Japanese veterans living, working, and visiting in this country have had an opportunity to meet with the Tora gang and join with American veterans in a sprit of brotherhood and friendship that only former servicemen can experience.

During the average year, Tora participates in 12 to 16 air shows with 8 to10 Tora aircraft participating in each show. In addition, each performance includes approximately 61 pyrotechnic effects. The average Tora show requires the coordinated effort of a minimum of 20 to 26 individuals with the support of local fire departments both in the air and on the ground. As one air show industry publication noted, “Flying and working with a keen sense of spirit and camaraderie, the men and women of Tora set themselves apart from other air show acts by exhibiting a professionalism that over the years has earned them the distinction as one of the best acts in the industry”. This excellence was recognized formally in December 2001 when Tora was presented with the Art Scholl Award for Showmanship. This award is one of the two highest distinctions awarded by ICAS, the premiere air show industry trade association. This level of achievement is truly extraordinary when one considers that Tora is comprised entirely of volunteers. Every single person associated with Tora has volunteered his/her time, skills and financial resources to accomplish one simple feat…the telling of a true story, a piece of history. In this respect, Tora is more than just another air show act. Tora is a team of volunteers dedicated to an air show act that can best be described as a living history museum. For 33 years, 12 to 16 shows each year, the men and women of Tora have been performing essentially the same act for crowds throughout the western hemisphere. The story never changes, yet every show is as fresh and exciting as the first. Every performance is presented with the same spirited presentation, sense of emotion, and commitment to safety as those first performances in 1972.

As the pilots taxi for takeoff, Tora ground crew and Tora Bomb Squad members can frequently be seen saluting the pilots in the traditional Japanese fashion of a bow. From that moment in the air show until the final notes of Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” are heard as the smoke and fires from Tora finally fade away, the men and women of Tora are dedicated to one simple, yet powerful task…the telling of the story…”lest we forget”. Dedication…Selflessness…Commitment…these terms are synonymous with the men and women of Tora, Tora, Tora. As one airshow promoter so aptly phrased it…”An airshow without TORA or the TORA Bomb Squad is just another fly in. Treat yourself to a day at the museum…the multi-sensory, 3-D, living history museum known as TORA, TORA, TORA.

by Elliott “Doc” Pood, Former TORA Public Information Officer

CLICK for PHOTO ALBUM and Use Top Arrow to Proceed