398th Reunion at Norfolk, VA
August 10 - 13, 2016
Article by Mellisa Ledlow
The 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association celebrated its 33rd Annual Reunion August 10-13, 2016 in Norfolk, Virginia. Many wonderful activities and tours were planned by the Reunion Chair, Ken Howard and his family and helped create another outstanding gathering. Norfolk, Virginia is an amazing mix of old and new. On one hand, it is the home of the earliest British settlements in North America and on the other hand, the most modern, high-tech military force in the world is flourishing in the very same place. It’s ironic that attendees had to drive by the thoroughly modern, state-of-the-art Naval Station Norfolk and the Atlantic Fleet to get to Colonial Williamsburg!
Reunion activities began Wednesday night on The Spirit of Norfolk Dinner Cruise in the heart of downtown Norfolk. The cruise left Town Point Park and proceeded down the Elizabeth River. The cruise featured historical sites ranging from colonial times when Captain John Smith arrived to explore the area to a spectacular skyline view of the current Norfolk Naval Base/Atlantic Fleet. The group was also able to see Old Fort Norfolk built in 1794 under orders from George Washington, the site of the first battle between two ironclad vessels, the Monitor and the Merrimac (CSS Virginia), and Hampton Roads Harbor—the largest port complex in the United States. An amazing abundance of history in a two-hour cruise! There was also a lovely dinner buffet, live music and wonderful views from inside the cruise ship and on the outdoor upper deck.
On Thursday morning, the 398th group headed to downtown Norfolk to visit the Nauticus/Battleship Wisconsin. The Nauticus is a maritime-themed science center and museum that uses Norfolk’s natural harbor setting to showcase and educate visitors about maritime commerce and the world’s largest Navy. The Battleship Wisconsin is berthed at Nauticus and is open for self-guided tours. The Wisconsin, an Iowa-class battleship, is one of the largest and last battleships built by the US Navy. She holds the distinction of having served in WWII, the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. The Wisconsin is a highly decorated ship due to her contributions during war-time.
The next stop on Thursday was a visit to the Naval Station Norfolk (NSN). In the early 1900’s, high-ranking US Naval officers determined that the property was ideal for a naval base. The purchase of the original 474 acres began the development of the Naval Station Norfolk and also includes a Naval Air Station, a Submarine Station and several training stations and a hospital. The entire complex currently covers over 4,300 acres. Tremendous expansion and development occurred in the 1940’s as the country prepared for and eventually entered WWII.
Navy personnel met the 398th tour bus at the base entrance and escorted the group to the Officer’s Club for lunch. The guided tour next drove by seven miles of piers and aircraft hangers where a variety of ships were docked, including the aircraft carriers USS George H W Bush and USS Abraham Lincoln. Along with other frigates, cruisers and destroyers, the USS Cole was also docked at Naval Station Norfolk and the tour was honored to pass by the station’s Memorial to those lost in the USS Cole terrorist attack.
Air Operations at NSN are extensive and critical as it is the hub for Navy logistics going to the European and Central Command theaters of operations, and the Caribbean. Cargo planes, passenger planes, helicopters and all varieties of aircraft could be seen in action for readiness and training. Even from the seat of a tour bus, it is apparent that Naval Station Norfolk is diligent and impressive in its mission to be prepared to protect the United States.
Many Reunion attendees had arrived in Norfolk by Thursday so that evening’s Welcome Banquet was a great time to visit and enjoy the company of familiar old friends. And new friends! What a great surprise that a 398th veteran made his first appearance at a Reunion! Nace Wiley, a Ball Turret Mechanic from the 601st Squadron Armament Section came to the Memory Room and attended the Welcome Banquet along with his nephew. President Marilyn Gibb-Rice presented Nace with the traditional 398th BG Veterans Medal. It was such an honor to have Nace join us—especially since he was the oldest vet in the room—99 years, 7 months and 12 days old! We can’t wait to see him next year! An additional highlight of the evening was a Q&A session with the nine veterans in attendance (and it also created a great photo op!).
The Welcome Banquet also featured remarks from Maria Hunter, daughter of Col. Frank Hunter, 398th BG Commander. Maria was almost 10 years old when her father was shot down during a mission to Neuss, Germany in January 1945. Through the years, she has collected many stories from the men who were privileged to serve under her father. Maria has often heard that Col. Hunter was “very strict and that his men had to do things the right way,” but all the men loved him. As she said, that was very unusual—to hold in such high regard, someone that also had high expectations. His men never wanted to disappoint Col. Hunter.
Maria’s last memory of her father was when he left the hotel room her family shared in Rapid City, South Dakota to be driven to the nearby airbase. Later that morning, while in her schoolyard, she and the other children looked up and saw the squadrons of B-17’s begin their journey to the European front. Col. Hunter’s Purple Heart, awarded posthumously, sits in a drawer in her home. She chooses not to display it as she says, “I understand the significance of it.” Many thanks to Maria—it was a privilege to have her in attendance and to have her speak.
On a very hot, bright Friday morning, an interested 398th reunion group headed out to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area is the interpretation of the colonial American city with dozens of restored or re-created buildings related to its colonial and American Revolutionary War history. Costumed employees work and dress as people did in the era. For much of the 18th century, Williamsburg was the center of government for the Colony of Virginia and American forefathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry met and planned features for the new, independent government.
The 398th group was able to take a leisurely walking tour of the area, enjoy lunch and then head for historic Jamestown National Historic Site.
The Jamestown Settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Settlers found themselves in Powhatan Indian territory and struggled at times with their relationship with the Native Americans. Starvation and disease were also major problems with many early settlers succumbing to one or the other. The Jamestown National Historic Site contains a museum that captures the significance of the three cultures, European, North American and African that were involved in laying the groundwork for American government and society. Most of the 398th group did a walking tour of the museum and the adjacent living history museum that interprets the early colony, as well as a visit to re-creations of the three ships that brought the first colonists from England in 1607. It was so interesting to learn and also imagine what our early settlers experienced.
The group re-energized back at the hotel with a well-attended Happy Hour! This gave another great opportunity to visit and hear more veterans’ stories.
On the last day of the 2016 Reunion, a tour to the MacArthur Memorial was organized. The MacArthur Memorial is a museum and research center in downtown Norfolk dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of the life of General Douglas MacArthur. It also pays tribute to the millions of men and women who served with General MacArthur in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.
Just a short distance away, the group made a stop at the highly regarded Chrysler Art Museum. The Museum has thrived and grown mainly due to the generous personal donation from the automobile-magnate, Walter Chrysler, Jr. The Chrysler Museum has one of America’s top collections of glass art and the 398th tourists were able to witness a glass blowing demo.
Many attendees then made their way in the last few hours of the Reunion to the Memory Room. Along with the PX, Jack’s Books (a wealth of personal information about the 398th veterans), and copies of past issues of the Flak News, the room always has something new of interest. Geoff Rice brought photos and information about the status of the ever-growing Nuthampstead Airfield Museum in England. And Scott Welty displayed a few poster-sized WWII photos of some veterans. The Memory Room is also a great gathering place for conversations between new and old friends.
Those warm relationships carried on into the Farewell Banquet Saturday night. Marilyn Gibb-Rice gave a much-deserved thank you to the Howard Family— Ken, Brandy and Beth —for organizing a great reunion. Jack Dodson, tail gunner with the Watkins’ Crew, 601st Squadron, spoke of his receiving the French Medal of Honor at a 4th of July ceremony in Houston. Jack encouraged any veterans that may qualify to apply through the 8th Air Force Historical Society. Marilyn also presented Jack with his 398th Veteran’s Medal. A special recognition was given to Ray Richman’s family. Ray’s grandson showed up with his own son and Ray’s namesake, 3 week old, Raymond. Raymond was the youngest attendee at the 2016 Reunion!
Once again, a 398th BGMA Reunion slowly came to a close—there was a bit of dancing, but mostly conversations, hugs, photos and lots of “see ya next year!” It’s always difficult to say good-bye, but everyone left looking forward to Salt Lake City, Utah next August. Til then…..
Below are a few photographs from various events held throughout the four day reunion held in August 2016.
Many thanks to Lee Bradley, Mellisa & Jim Ledlow, and Marilyn & Geoff Rice for use of their photos.
Nine 398th BG veterans attended our reunion in Norfolk, August 10 -13, 2016.
Pictured above are our honored nine.
Standing L to R: Dick Martin - 603rd SQ, Jack Dodson - 601st SQ, Jim White - 600 SQ, Ray Richman - 600th SQ.
Seated L to R: Charles Ormsby - 603rd SQ, Don “Red” Ibeling - 602nd SQ, Nace Wiley - 601st SQ,
Lou Stoffer - 600th SQ and Keith Anderson - 600th SQ.
This was 99 year old Nace Wiley's first 398th reunion ever!
Veteran Jim White taking in the Nauticus Maritime Museum
Jim was the co-pilot on the Grinter Crew, 600th Squadron.
Keith Anderson checking out one of the many Nauticus exhibits
Keith was a pilot with the 600th Squadron.
Chrysta Moore, Dawne Dougherty and Carolyn Widmann on deck aboard the Battleship Wisconsin
Chrysta’s husband was Cecil B. “Tex” Moore and Dawne’s husband was Tom Dougherty.
Cecil was the tail gunner and Tom was the waist gunner on the Woodson Crew, 602nd Squadron.
Carolyn’s dad was Jim Crouch, ball turret gunner with the 601st Squadron. Jim flew with several crews.
Pete and Sharon Krause pose for a photo next to the Battleship Wisconsin
Sharon’s dad was Paul Roderick, pilot with the 602nd Squadron.
Mike Macyda where he’s NOT supposed to be on the Battleship Wisconsin!
"AVAST, MEN! (that means STOP!) This is the Ladies' Head NOT AN EXHIBIT AREA"
Mike's dad was Frank Macyda, Ball Turret Gunner with the J.H. Davis Crew, 601st SQ.
Pete Krause and Geoff Rice; “The Plaid Twins”
Since their matching shirts were such a big hit at last year’s reunion in New Orleans,
they decided they would start a tradition. Yikes!
Maria Hunter Mackie checking out “Jack’s Books” in the Memory Room
Maria is Col. Hunter’s great granddaughter.
Wilma Richman and Maria Hunter
Wilma’s husband is Ray Richman, he was the 398th BG Executive Officer with the 600th SQ
and Maria’s father was Col. Frank P. Hunter, Commanding Officer of the 398th BG.
Sharing stories in the Memory Room.
Left to Right: Charles Ormsby, Mike Macyda, George LeDoux and Nace Wiley
Charles was a flight engineer with the Aniello Crew, 603rd SQ and Nace was a ball turret repair specialist with the 601st SQ.
Mike's dad was Frank Macyda, Ball Turret Gunner with the J.H. Davis Crew, 601st SQ
and George Abbott LeDoux’s dad was Ray LeDoux, Navigator with the DeLancey Crew, 601st SQ.
George was named after Ray’s buddy and crewmate, George Abbott, who was KIA on October 15, 1944.
Veteran Charles Ormsby in the Memory Room
Scott Dodson and Debbie Farnum with their veteran dad Jack Dodson (center)
Jack was the Tail Gunner on the Watkins Crew, 601st SQ.
Sally Mackie, Teedy Blackwell and Karen Neff
Sally is Col. Frank P. Hunter’s granddaughter.
Teedy’s husband was Wally Blackwell, 601st SQ pilot and former 398th BGMA President.
Karen is related to William Wells, 600th SQ pilot who was KIA on April 8, 1945.
Carolyn Widmann, our PX Manager
Carolyn’s dad was James C. Crouch, waist gunner with several 601st SQ crews (Blackwell, Frazier, Prather, etc.)
Jim Ledlow, Ken Howard and Dick & Wilma Martin at Colonial Williamsburg Virginia
Jim’s wife is Mellisa, our 398th BGMA Treasurer, whose dad is Don Menard. Don was the radio operator on the Sheely Crew, 603rd SQ.
Ken Howard’s dad was Robert L. Howard, ball turret gunner on the Donovan Crew, 603rd SQ,
and Dick was a flight engineer on the Aniello Crew, 603rd SQ.
Mellisa Ledlow and Caron MacLane “taking stock” of the situation in Colonial Williamsburg
(I know, that’s a terrible pun!)
Caron’s dad is veteran Keith Anderson. Keith was a pilot with the 600th SQ.
Jim Ledlow taking a breather…
it was HOT that day in Historic Colonial Williamsburg!!”
Dick and Wilma Martin with their good friend Charles Ormsby (center) at the Saturday night Farewell Dinner
Dick and Charles flew on the 603rd Aniello Crew crew together.
Liz McCann and Karen Clement
Liz is the daughter of Wally and Teedy Blackwell and Karen is the daughter of Raymond and Jeannie Stange.
Raymond was the navigator/bombardier on the Williams Crew, 603rd SQ.
Linda Davis, Teedy Blackwell and Rozanne Joseph enjoying the Farewell Dinner
Linda Davis is the daughter of Joe and Rozanne Joseph (our former PX managers).
Joe was a flight engineer on the Moy Crew, 603rd SQ.
Hey Linda, you look great in your dad’s old WWII flight suit!
Ralph Ambrose and Rozanne Joseph
Ralph is a 398th enthusiast and has been coming to our group reunions for years.
He spent the war years living on his grandparent's farm in Hare Street, a village about
4 miles from Nuthampstead. He was 13 years old when the 398th BG came to Station 131
and remembers seeing their B-17’s flying out and back every day.
Veteran Lou Stoffer and his grandson Joey Stoffer
Lou was the flight engineer on the Grinter Crew, 600th SQ.
Lindhe and Marthy Guarisco
Lindhe’s dad was John B. Guarisco, bombardier on the J.H. Davis Crew, 601st SQ.
Connie Novek, Karen Neff, Bobbi Mier and Loretha Smith at the Farewell Dinner
Connie is our 398th BGMA Vice President. Her husband was Elliot Novek, radio operator on the N. Thompson Crew, 602nd SQ.
Bobbi is related to Gene Douglas who was a pilot with the 600th SQ.
Lydia St. Louis and Mellisa Ledlow
Lydia’s husband was Terence St. Louis, a ball turret gunner with the Ford Crew, 600th SQ.
Pete Krause and Jim Ledlow
Chrysta Moore looking lovely at the Farewell Dinner
Enjoying the Farewell Dinner are Sharon Krause, Marilyn Gibb-Rice and Bobbi Mier
Marilyn’s dad was James C. Crouch, waist gunner with several 601st SQ crews (Blackwell, Frazier, Prather, etc.)
Caron MacLane and Connie Novek
Veterans Lou Stoffer, Jim White and Keith Anderson swapping stories
Dawne Dougherty, our Dues Manager and Carolyn Widmann our PX Manager
Ann Collins, Teedy Blackwell and Lee Bradley
Ann’s dad was Phillip Collins, ball turret gunner with the Marias Crew, 601st SQ
and Lee’s dad was Frederick C. Bradley, Jr., flight engineer with the Traeder Crew, 601st SQ.
Lee is the 398th BGMA’s Historian, Flak News Editor, Webmaster and Data Coordinator.
George LeDoux and his good friend Mike Haase
These two guys are great fun and we are always happy to see them at our reunions!
Veteran Ray Richman’s family and Veteran Jack Dodson at the Farewell Dinner
Ray’s family left to right: great grandson David, great granddaughter Sarah, grandson Jesse Richman,
grand daughter-in-law Patricia, Ray’s wife Wilma, Ray and (not a family member) Jack Dodson.
Ray Richman’s great grandchildren; David, Sarah and 3 week old Raymond!
Little Raymond was our youngest reunion attendee EVER!
Veteran Charles Ormsby’s family enjoying the Farewell Dinner
Connie Novek, Teedy Blackwell and Jeannie Stange
Scott Welty and Geoff Rice
Scott’s dad was Robert M. Welty, co-pilot with the Tarr Crew, 603rd SQ.
Scott’s dad took many rare color photos while he was with the 398th BG during WWII
and we are very grateful for Scott sharing them with us.
His dad’s photos are incredible and we have a few of them posted on this website.
Geoff Rice is our hard working Photo Historian. His wife is 398th BG President Marilyn Gibb-Rice.
Sharon Krause, Carolyn Widmann and Maria Hunter having a laugh
at one of our impromptu late night gatherings
You would think by looking at all of that junk food on the table
that we hadn't eaten for weeks! HA!
”The Howards”; Brandy, Ken and Beth, our amazing Reunion Team!
Many thanks to Ken, 398th Reunion Coordinator and his daughters Brandy and Beth for
arranging yet another fantastic reunion. Also thanks to Ken’s wife Trudy for all of her
behind the scenes help. We know she provides huge support for our hardworking team...
...she also makes the most INCREDIBLE homemade caramels!