33rd PRS Online: Veterans

33rd PRS Association
Some years after World War II, former members of the 33rd Photo Recon Squadron decided it was time to renew old acquaintances. The 33rd PRS Association was born. Starting in 1958, the Association sponsored periodic squadron reunions, kept an updated address bank of squadron members, and produced regular Association newsletters to help former members of the 33rd keep up with their comrades. It also sponsored the publishing of a squadron history, Straight and Level, by Association member J. B. Woodson, Jr. The 33rd PRS Association's final reunion was held October 3 through October 5, 2010 in Dayton, Ohio.

Squadron Reunions

Many of the 33rd PRS Association reunions were held in places of significance to the squadron's history, such Meridian, Mississippi (where the squadron picked up its first members at Key Field in 1942) and Oklahoma City, the home of Will Rogers Field where so many photo recon units were trained. The reunions afforded Association members and their wives opportunities to tour local sites of interest, such as the NASA Langley Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, the US Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida. They also enjoyed golfing, sightseeing, shopping, and good old-fashioned socializing. At later reunions, an increasing number of children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, as well as nieces and nephews, were in attendance.

Here's a list of the reunions:

  • 24th at Dayton, Ohio, October 3 to 5, 2010
  • 23rd at Stone Mountain, Georgia, October 2 to 4, 2009
  • 22nd at Dulles, Virginia, August 22 to 25, 2008
  • 21st at Columbus, Ohio, September 28 to October 1, 2007
  • 20th at Orlando, Florida, October 13-16, 2006
  • 19th at Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 23-26, 2005
  • 18th at Washington, DC, October 15-18, 2004
  • 17th at Dayton, Ohio, October 17-20, 2003
  • 16th at New Orleans, Louisiana, October 11-14, 2002
  • 15th at Seattle, Washington, September 14-17, 2001
  • 14th at Tampa, Florida, October October 5-7, 1999
  • 13th at Dayton, Ohio, September 26-29, 1997
  • 12th at Hampton, Virginia, September 22-25, 1995
  • 11th at San Antonio, Texas, September 25-27, 1993
  • 10th at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, September 27-30, 1991
  • 9th at Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 15-17, 1989
  • 8th at Dayton, Ohio, October 9-11, 1987
  • 7th at Cocoa Beach, Florida, October 14-16, 1984
  • 6th at Louisville, Kentucky, July 3-5, 1982
  • 5th at St. Louis, Missouri, July 4-6, 1980
  • 4th at Little Rock, Arkansas, July 1-3, 1977
  • 3rd at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 5-7, 1974
  • 2nd at Meridian, Mississippi, July 3-5, 1969
  • 1st at Chicago, Illinois, July 3-5, 1958

The First Reunion of the 33rd

Official 1958 reunion photo, Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago
Taken after the July 4 reunion banquet and "made by the team of Oxley & Proska." The banner was created by 33rd veteran Leo Sanderson, who had been responsible for painting most of the nose art on the squadron's aircraft during the war. (1958 Newsletter, 33rd PRS Association)
Photo courtesy of Harry W. Trimble via Kent A. Ramsey

The Last Reunion of the 33rd

Burl Stokes (left) and Leonard Gold (right), US Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB
At the 24th and final squadron reunion in October 2010, former squadron pilots Burl Stokes and Lenny Gold were the only squadron member attendees. They stood in front of the P-38 exhibit at the US Air Force Museum for a final reunion photo. At the time, Lenny was Vice President of the 33rd PRS Association. Burl was a former Association President, and he appears in the 5th Row of the "Official 1958 reunion photo" shown above (holding the reunion banner). Burl Stokes died January 5, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Kent A. Ramsey

In 1980, the Reverend Neal E. Lake, chaplain of the 33rd PRS Association, wrote the following poem entitled "The Last Reunion of the 33rd". It was published in the Association's 1981 newsletter.

I had a dream the other night,
    That sent chills through my bones.
I heard the names of the 33rd men,
    Being read in solemn tones.

The years had passed, as all years do,
    And had taken our friends away,
Until only two were finally left,
    To have a reunion that day.

The two who were left were old and weak,
    They couldn't even stand,
Their voices trembled as they tried to read
    The names of that gallant band.

All their buddies and comrades had gone before,
    These two were now the last,
But they had come to a final reunion,
    To honor their friends from the past.

I heard the names I knew so well,
    The ones that had shared with me,
And I tried to catch if mine was read,
    And wondered if it would be.

The light was dim, the voices low,
    So I couldn't understand,
I only knew these two old men,
    Were sitting hand in hand.

Remembering days when they were young,
    And the ones who shared their lot,
Remembering strong and handsome youths,
    And the days they had never forgot.

I don't know who they were,
    Though I strained my eyes to see.
I hope that one was J. B. Woodson.
    I hope the other one was me.

Neal Lake was a Technical Sergeant in the Photo Lab. The picture at left is Neal at Chalgrove, England in 1944. He died October 12, 1998.

J. B. Woodson was a Sergeant in the Photo Lab and wrote Straight and Level, a history of the 33rd PRS. He died July 9, 1981.

Photo of Neal Lake courtesy of Elwood E. Davis

National World War II Memorial Registry

The website of the National World War II Memorial hosts an online Registry of Remembrances. The names of individual veterans in this registry "will be forever linked to the memorial's bronze and granite representations of their sacrifice and achievement." To honor a member of the 33rd PRS in this permanent database, go to the Welcome page at www.wwiimemorial.com and click the link under "World War II Registry." Follow the directions on the Registry page. If you register a 33rd PRS veteran, please let our webmaster know when his name appears on the National World War II Memorial Registry website. (To find the email address for our webmaster, click here.)

So far, information on the following 33rd PRS members has been registered:

  • Robert H. Adams
  • John G. Austin
  • John E. Barnby
  • John G. Brink
  • Elwood E. Davis
  • William E. Davis
  • Andrew M. Dolan
  • Forest B. Eckenrode
  • Fred W. Evans, Jr.
  • Wilson Flippo
  • Leonard Gold
  • Thomas F. Gordon
  • Joseph W. Heacock, Jr.
  • Charles P. Ingram
  • Andrew L. Jackson
  • Luther S. Killingsworth
  • Stanley J. Kulak
  • Lloyd H. Legendre
  • Floyd W. McRae
  • John R. Moran
  • Ralph C. Petersen
  • Herbert F. Pitcher
  • Emil R. Proska
  • T. A. Roberts
  • Russell F. Schaller
  • William S. Scott, Jr.
  • Burl R. Stokes
  • Rufus L. Walkowiak
  • Sterling W. Winn
  • J. B. Woodson, Jr.

The National World War II Memorial in Washington was completed in April 2004 and dedicated on the following Memorial Day weekend. The 33rd PRS Association held a memorial service at the Memorial on October 17, 2004 during its 18th squadron reunion.

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