WWII vets visit Niagara
By Staff Sgt. Peter Dean, 107th Airlift Wing
/ Published August 23, 2010
Niagara Falls, New York -- On August 18 the 107th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard was honored by the presents of a group of WWII veterans that spent the day touring the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. The Vets former members of the 512th Field Artillery Battalion, U.S. Army played a critical roll in the Allied victory at the Battle of the Bulge, Hitters last major offence.
The tour of the base included a visit to a C-130 where aircrew explained the mission capabilities of the C-130, a visit to the 107th Security Forces Squadron allowed the vets to inspect the latest weaponry used by the USAF and a visit to the NFARS Fire Department educated the vets on the advancement of emergency equipment.
The visit appeared to capture the interest of the tour guides as much as it did the vets. Throughout the tour vets recalled story after story of surviving the single largest, bloodiest battle that the American forces fought in during World War II. More than 600,000 American troops fought at the Bulge with more than 81,000 being killed, wounded or captured. The Germans sustained more than 100,000 killed, wounded or captured.
"These guys are great, to put faces to the history books is amazing," said Master Sgt. Ed Stefik, member of the107th Security Forces Squadron. "Listening to their stories gives you a true sense of pride," he added.
According to Mark Driess the son of a former member, the dwindling group has been getting together annually for more than 50 years.
"These guys come from all over the country to swap stories year after year," said Driess. "One guy drove 1100 miles none stop, he's 86, great guys, great guys," he added.
"During one battle in a hail of small arms fire and artillery shelling everyone jumped into a fox hole except for this one guy who took cover behind a jeep, well the guys picked on him every year, cause he caught a ricochet," said Driess. "They never let him live it down," he added.
"If it wasn't for you, I'd be speaking German," said Brig. Gen. Frank A. Cipolla the deputy commanding general for the 88th Regional Support Command, who was invited to accompany the group for the day. "Thank you for what you did, your efforts laid the groundwork for making America the greatest nation in the world," he added.