World War II aircraft artifact returns to 309th AS

Contributed by U.S. Army Garrison Benelux

The 309th Airlift Squadron received a World War II artifact through the combined efforts of an author, a group of Airmen and a war memorial group during a private ceremony conducted May 22 at Chievres Air Base.

The artifact was a hydraulic accumulator from a P-47 Thunderbolt, which was crash-landed by 1st Lt. John R. Read on Sept. 13, 1944, near Wanne, Belgium. He eventually returned to his unit and kept flying. However, Read’s broken aircraft stayed at the crash site, near Malmedy, for years.

The Wings of Memory, a Belgian war memorial organization, organized the transfer from the Tennessee Museum of Aviation to the 309th AS after a request from author and former astronaut Thomas Jones. Jones was working with Wings of Memory trying to discover information about crash sites involving the 365th Fighter Group — Read’s flying unit.

“The possibility a museum would give that artifact away — even for another museum — is nearly zero,” said Dirk De Quick of Wings of Memory.

After the discovery, a call was placed to the U.S. national military representative in Belgium, Air Force Col. Mark Horn, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Horn agreed to a symbolic hand off of the artifact at a small ceremony and asked the 309th to make all the arrangements.

“You should be commended. I have tremendous amount of respect for each of you for dedicating even a portion of your lives to the men and women who gave their lives fighting against tyranny and for freedom. It’s an honor to receive this artifact on behalf of a grateful nation,” said Lt. Col. Tracy Patterson, 309th AS commander.

“It’s a small piece that may seem insignificant to some, but for the people who launched and flew these aircraft over the skies of Europe, this has a huge impact,” said Capt. Robert Weiterhausen. “U.S. and Belgian cooperation has been a hallmark of our 45 years in the Benelux, and this is just one more example of the commitment our countries have to each other.”