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Reunion 2003  
Shrevesport Photos
Once again, Steve Gotts was able to attend this year’s 361st Fighter Group Reunion, which was held in Louisiana and attended by around 50 Association members, wives, family members and guests. As usual, Steve took a number of photos and has offered the following selection, which also includes a few pictures taken at Fantasy of Flight as a preview of a part of the planned 2004 Reunion in Florida:

Please click on the thumbnail picture for a high quality enlargement.

With most of the Association members having arrived and registered the previous day, Monday October 13th, Columbus Day, offered a choice of IMAX movies at the nearby Sci-Port Discovery Center. During the evening, everyone gathered for the welcome dinner in the hotel, including the Reunion Host Murff O’Neal, shown here with his wife Arey.
On Tuesday October 14th, the Group toured Barksdale Air Force Base, where they were welcomed and briefed by Gen. Jack Ihle of the 917th Wing. Later, the tour was split into five groups and individually briefed at various display areas. Here, Charlie Screws, John and Nancy Olmstead, Phil Heacox and others listen intently to facts and figures about the resident A-10 Warthogs.

Meanwhile, former 376th pilot and son of Gen. Claire Chennault of “Flying Tigers” fame, Claire P. Chennault, attracted the attention of a local TV news cameraman and was interviewed about his wartime experiences.

Here, former 374th Squadron Adjutant and pilot, John Olmstead and son of the late 374th pilot Clarence “Bud” Zieske, Joe Ormond, pose obligingly after examining the complexities of an A-10’s cockpit. Later, Joe was lucky enough to win the prize draw for a ride in an A-10 simulator.

Other displays included a tour of the A-10 Engine Shop and a demonstration of Night Vision Goggles, but the most impressive of all just had to be the B-52 flight-line. This picture shows Charlie Screws, Claire Chennault, Peter Randall, Joe Ormond and others enjoying an escorted walk-around a B-52 named “SAC Time”, sporting a WW2 style Varga girl below the cockpit.

Following lunch at the Enlisted Men’s club, the Group visited the nearby 8th Air Force Museum which featured 17 aircraft on open display, including a C-47, B-24, B-17 and P-51 from the WW2 era.

Although the Mustang’s nose should really have been painted yellow rather than blue for the 352nd Fighter Group, it provided an excellent backdrop for group pictures such as this showing all of the veterans in the tour group.

Not to be left out, the wives joined their menfolk for this additional picture.

The Museum also featured numerous indoor displays, but this one was of particular interest to 361sters – a section of brick wall from the Red Cross Aero Club at Bottisham salvaged by the Eighth Wall Art Conservation Society and presented to the 8th Air Force Museum on December 7th, 1987.

During the evening of Wednesday October 15th, Association members gathered in the Holiday Inn Downtown/Riverfront Hotel for the Reunion Banquet. Here (L-R), former 374th crew-chiefs Art Trilli, Vincent Rosewell and Gerald Rheinscheld, with their respective wives smile for the camera.

Later on, the “Timeless Tunes” tempted a number of couples out onto the dance floor, including (L-R foreground) Tom & Mary Ellen Moore, Paul & Marion Holter and Alton & Sue Snyder.
No 361st Reunion Banquet would be complete without a hearty rendition of the Air Corps Song. This year’s “maximum effort” included (L-R) Wally Gnoth, John Hornyak, Bernie Dennehy, Frank Davison, Duane Grounds, Tom Moore, John Olmstead, Murff O’Neal and Bob Bland. Without doubt, a good time was had by all!
A few days before the 361st Reunion, Steve visited the Fantasy of Flight museum at Polk City in Florida and, quite by chance, met up with veterans of the 455th Bomb Group who flew B-24s from Foggia, Italy during WW2. Having noted how well they were received (note the B-24 open for inspection) and the quality of the Museum’s facilities, Steve was prompted to suggest that the 361st should return to Florida for its 2004 Reunion and spend at least a day at Fantasy of Flight. The suggestion was approved.
The Museum’s extensive collection of vintage aircraft now includes two airworthy P-51 Mustangs, a P-51D model and this rare P-51C, both restored to immaculate “stock” condition. Occasionally, these and other aircraft are demonstrated for the benefit of visitors.
This view shows one of the purpose built display hangars, (like all of the buildings on site, built in art-deco style) which contains other rarities such as a B-26 Marauder, Supermarine Spitfire XVI, Short Sunderland and this fully restored B-25 Mitchell.

Tours of the restoration workshops are also of great interest, revealing “behind the scenes” work on other treasures such as this extremely rare Seversky P-35. (Steve would welcome any questions or comments from Association members regarding this Museum.)