Imagine the Las Vegas Convention Center with seven acres of exhibit space completely sold out for the Air Force Fifty Convention, April 22-26, sponsored by the Air Force Association! More than 10,000 people had pre-registered, and many more came during the week. Over 160 veterans groups and 200 industrial and government groups were represented. The veterans exhibits were grouped together in a section called "Reunion Alley" and our 54th Troop Carrier Wing was there!
The exhibits opened Tuesday evening and ran during the day on Wednesday and Thursday. The reunion groups covered the spectrum from squadron and numbered Air Force units, through pilot training classes...to such groups as the Air Force Sergeants Association, the American Fighter Aces Association, and the Old Crows. Lending an international flavor were participants from France, Japan, Italy, New Zealand and Belgium.
Although setting up and taking down our booth, and manning it from Tuesday evening through Thursday evening was a tiring job at times, the rewards far out-weighed any negatives. Sorry more of you who had requested registration forms weren't able to come. Those who came included Thad Baggaley, Ed Brown, Norman Cumbus, Sr., Robert DelBuono, Burt Dezendorf, Don Hawley, Richard Karthals, Joe Macis, Sr., Joseph Meder, Al Miziura, Emilio Parese, Howard Stillwell, and Herbert Waldman. Some had wives and/or other family members with them. We learned from the Mato's and John Murphy a few days ahead that they had to cancel their reservations because of health reasons. Surely hope both Frank and John are feeling better by now.
Luckily, the 54th booth was in a good corner location. Displayed in the booth was a large poster on which were listed all the groups under the 54th Wing. Glenn's model airplanes, the B-24 "Liberator," B-26 "Marauder," P-38 "Lightning," Douglas DC-47, and Republic P-47 attracted lots of attention. Emilio brought the 54th-Fifth Air Force
T-shirts left from our Buffalo Reunion, and almost all of them were sold. The little C-47 magnets, also left over from Buffalo, were all sold. (Incidentally, these sales covered the costs of the booth so no money had to come from the postage money fund.)
Other displays in our booth included the "Moresby to Manila" book, with an index Glenn has prepared; signs showing the various stops we in the 54th made between Moresby and Manila; brochures about George Wamsley's "American Fly-Boy," and Col. Edward Imparato's "Into Darkness: A Pilot's Journey through Headhunter Territory" and "MacAurthur--Manila to Tokyo" books; copies of our latest newsletter; and a poster with pictures of key 54th Wing personnel.
At a convention, there are always give-a-ways. Guess what! We even had pencils from our first reunion in Las Vegas to give away. During the reception times, when the exhibitors served various goodies, our cups of pop corn proved very popular.
There was continuous entertainment on the "Reunion Alley" stage. Several talented vocalists and musicians performed, and there were lectures about such topics as the new Air Force Memorial planned for Ft. Myer, VA, where the first military flights took place, and the VA Cemetery system. Although this was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the USAF, we who were in the Army Air Corps weren't forgotten. A quartet from the USAF Band donned World War II uniforms and played "Big Band Era" music. Between on-stage acts, videos were shown. Each group had been asked to send logos and unit patches prior to the convention, and these were used to make a video. Since we had sent the 54th Troop Carrier sign from the "Moresby to Manila" book, it was part of the video.
The industrial exhibits were awesome! Every company you can think of who has furnished anything to the USAF through the years was there. Among the government agencies exhibits was a full-size replica of the orange dart-shaped Bell X-1 rocket plane, the first experimental jet to break the sound barrier. Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, who flew the plane on that historic date, Oct. 14, 1947, was there to autograph pictures of the plane.
A highlight of the conference was the one and one-half hour extravaganza, "The Power of the Dream," which took place in the huge auditorium of the Hilton Hotel, next door to the convention center. On either side of the stage were two very large scenes on which were projected scenes that supplemented what was happening on the central stage. Using narration, music by the USAF Band, dance and song, history of flight from the Wright brothers to predictions of the future was depicted.
On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning symposiums were held. Speakers included former president, George Bush; England's former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher; futurist Alvin Toffler; Boeing Company chairman, Philip Condit; Dr. Sheila Widnall, secretary of the Air Force; North American Aerospace Defense commander in chief Gen. Howell M. Estes III; Stanford University Professor Dr. William J. Perry; and Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF chief of staff.
On both Friday and Saturday an air show, called the United States Air Force's "Golden Air Tattoo," was held at nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Squadrons who performed were from Brazil, Chile, Japan, and Canada. Between their demonstrations, vintage aircraft and today's most advanced aircraft were featured, telling the history of the planes that have played a part in our national security interests through the years. The final demonstration was by the USAF Thunderbirds.
The only thing wrong with such an affair as huge as this convention, is the frustration one feels in not being able to see and do everything!
The AFA has four VHS videos for sale for $16.95 each, plus $4.00 s&h, or $49.95 plus $4.00 s&h for all four. The individual titles are: Highlights from Air Force FIFTY; Air Force FIFTY'S International Airpower Symposium; Selections from the "Power of the Dream" Gala; USAF's Golden Air Tattoo. Send your order with check, money order or credit card info to the Air Force Association, Communications Dept, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209 or call 1-800-727-3337, ext 4828.
Mrs. R P Amundson wants to hear from anyone who knew her uncle, Lt. Harry Desmarais Dingman. He was killed July 11, 1943, when his C-47 crashed on take-off at Port Moresby. He was a member of the 374th TCG, 22nd TCS. His co-pilot was Lt. James L Foster. He trained at Randolph, Perrin, Kelly, Garner and Del Valle Fields, TX; Lake Charles, LA; Maxton Field, NC; and Warrensburg, MO. He is listed in the memorial section of the "Moresby to Manila" book. Please send any information to R P Amundson, 8211 Adler Cir, Las Vegas, NV 89129, phone 702/645-1514, or e-mail JRAmundson@aol.com.
Steve McDevitt is gathering information about his uncle, Lt. William Randall Crecelius. He may have been on a flight from Townsville to Brisbane when his plane went down near Rockhampton, Aus., Dec 19, 1943. Others on the plane are listed as 2nd Lt. John R Rowell, T/Sgt. John L Shupe and Sgt. Robert S Fazio. He became a member of the 374th TCG, 22nd TCS, April 20, 1943, and was awarded the DFC about that time. He received his training at Curtis Field and Ellington Field, TX. Please address any information to Steve McDevitt, 3500 Aristides Dr, Owensboro, KY 42303, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.