2017 Reunion – 344th Bomb Group Association


This year’s reunion of the 344th Bomb Group took place in Dayton, Ohio, October 1-4. Twenty-eight were on hand including Ed Horn (veteran), Chris Horn, Ollie and Kelli Kirby. Also present Santo Endrizzi (veteran) and his daughters Marion Whepley and Joan Woodbury. Santo’s contingent also included Hap Whepley and his Santo’s son, Don Endrizzi. Otto Kirkpatrick (veteran) and his son Rick Kirkpatrick were in attendance. Representing Dick Fowler (497th) were Shirley Fowler and her daughters Carol Fowler and Mary Ellen Gregorich. They were accompanied by Jalil Quazzani. George Eldridge (veteran) now 100 years young came to the event with daughters Eileen Turk and Mary Lew McCarthy. Carl Carrozza was present, representing his father, Frank Carrozza (495th). Also present was John Schickendanz, representing his father, Ray Schickendanz. Norris Pew (497th) was represented by Linda and Jack Shilt, Mary Lou Crawford and Trish Shilt. Scott and KC Klusty came to remember Samuel Gold (497th). David and Jane Fitzgerald represented Neil Fitzgerald (497th).

On Oct. 2, the group toured the Carillon Historical Park, a 65-acre park and museum in Dayton, Ohio. It contains historic buildings and exhibits concerning the history of technology and the history of Dayton and its residents from 1796 to the present. The historical elements of the park include settlement, transportation, invention, and industry. The park also contains the Carillon Park Railroad, a miniature railway.

The next day, we visited the Champaign Aviation Museum. It exists to honor our veterans and their families as well as to educate the public about the experiences of past generations that flew in combat. They had some great WWII aviation displays, but it was most exciting to watch as craftsman worked on building a B-17 from the ground up. It contains 85% new parts made with standard machine shop equipment. 2017 reunion Champaign B-17

Our veterans or their senior representative signed a piece of fuselage material which was mounted on the plane.

2017 reunion sign panal

L to R Shirley Fowler, Santo Endrizzi, Otto Kirkpatrick, George Eldridge sign B-17 panel

2017 reunion signed panal

That evening we all assembled at the Amber Rose restaurant which specializes in Eastern European Cuisine. All agreed it was a special meal indeed.

2017 reunion Shootin in whole group

2017 344th Reunion attendees in front of B-27 “Shootin In.”

2017 reunion shootin in George

George Eldridge and his daughter Mary Lew McCarthy examine the B-26 undercarriage.

2017 reunion Santo Marion Shootin in

Santo Endrizzi and daughter, Marion Whepley in front of B-26 display.

On October 4th we visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. This huge museum, consisting of four giant hangers, is the official museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, northeast of Dayton, Ohio. The NMUSAF has one of the world’s largest collections with more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display. This certainly made for a full day. We visited the B-26 “Shootin In”. It is perhaps the best restored B-26 in existence. 2017 reunion shootin in cockpit It is a static display not set up for actual flight.

It was an emotional moment for us all. I had not ever seen a B-26 in person and found it to be close to the way I imagined it if not somewhat smaller, especially in the side-gun area my father manned. See these links for 360˚ views of its interior.
Cockpit- http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/cockpits/WWII_tour/WWII-10.html
Radio Operator Station- http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/cockpits/WWII_tour/WWII-11.html
Waist Gunner Station- http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/cockpits/WWII_tour/WWII-12.html
Bomb Bay Area- http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/cockpits/WWII_tour/WWII-13.html

Not to be missed was the B-29 Superfortress, Bockscar.

2017 reunion BockscarIt was the plane used to drop the world’s second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, which quickly brought an end to the war. 360˚ views;


Bombardier Station

Radio Operator Station

Ed Horn shared a painful memory as he looked at an exhibit of a box car the Nazis used to transport POWs. It was not unlike Ed’s experience.

2017 reunion Ed remembers box carWe took a short stroll on the grounds of the museum and located Ed Horn’s name inscribed on a wall of recognition.

2017 reunion Ed Horn Chris plaque 2017 reunion Ed Horn plaqueWe also admired the B-26 Marauder memorial which included elements donated by other bomb groups. We will look into adding a 344th BG element to the monument.

2017 reunion B-26 memorial group 2017 reunion B-26 memorial

That night we had our yearly meeting and banquet dinner. Ed Horn presided and gave a wonderful speech. Carl Carrozza provided an update on the 344th Bomb Group’s on-line presence. A wonderful time was had by all. Special thanks goes to Chris Horn who organized this wonderful reunion experience.

We send our thoughts and prayers to Otto Kirkpatrick for a quick recovery from the hip injury he sustained. He is mending after surgery and we hope he is up and around very soon.

(Photos by Ollie Kirby, Marion Endrizzi, and Carl Carrozza)