WWII vets take flight of a lifetime

October 12, 2012
photo - Members of this weekend's southern Colorado Honor Flight pose for a picture before departing for the Colorado Springs Airport. Photo by Jakob Rodgers/THE GAZETTE
Members of this weekend's southern Colorado Honor Flight pose for a picture before departing for the Colorado Springs Airport. Photo by Jakob Rodgers/THE GAZETTE 

One soldier delivered a thundering counterpunch to countless shelling attacks in the battle for Rome — 6,000 artillery rounds in three days. Another delivered a French woman’s baby after sneaking behind Nazi lines, all the while keeping watch for German soldiers patrolling nearby.

They were young. But these “kids” proved hardy, Howard Pease remembers.

“Had we all been 40, we would have been a lot more cautious,” said Pease, 86, while chuckling.

Sixty-seven years after those “kids” reigned victorious, Pease and 13 other World War II veterans once again showed a bit of that youthful energy. Nearly two hours before dawn, they boarded buses for the Colorado Springs Airport, where a plane waited to take them to Washington D.C. for the latest southern Colorado Honor Flight.

The program pays about $800 for each veterans’ trip to the National World War II Memorial, which was completed in spring 2004.

Twelve veterans flew on the first trip in June funded by Honor Flight of Southern Colorado, a nonprofit organization created in 2011 to raise money to get veterans to the memorial. Another 86 veterans remain on the organization’s waiting list.

Assistants helping to escort the veterans pay their own plane tickets.

Moments before leaving, members of the Colorado Patriot Guard and several Fort Carson soldiers shook their hands and listiened to their war stories.

“They have so much to share — so much history that we don’t even know,” said retired Armt Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Cisneros.

“We’re just hoping that they stay alive long enough to go,” added Chet Dean, a retired Army major and chaplain.

Eight veterans were Army, with two of those soldiers serving in the Army Air Corps. Five veterans were in the Navy and one served in the Marine Corps.

Their stories stretched from behind Nazi lines to Tokyo Bay.

Pease, a Navy electrician’s mate 3rd class, served aboard ships that delivered food and water to troops in the Atlantic.

A Navy radioman, James Welty, 86, was aboard the USS San Diego when it became the one of the first Navy warship to pull into Tokyo Bay for the end of the war in 1945. Japanese guns lined the bay’s shore, each pointed down and absent a gunner.

“We weren’t so sure that the Japanese — because they had Pearl Harbor in mind — weren’t setting us up for a trap,” Welty said.

On Friday morning — his 98th birthday — Adolph Wolff shared the story of another boy’s birth.

Fighting with the 100th Infantry Division, Wolff’s unit first survived a hurricane-tossed trip across the Atlantic and faced “savage” combat against the Nazis as they marched across France.

One day, while in the basement of a bombed-out house, they noticed a man walking outside with a lantern. The Frenchman’s wife, they later discovered, was in labor at a nearby farmhouse and needed a doctor.

“Nosey me, I turned my gun and they made me a medic,” Wolff said.

It wasn’t until after delivering the baby that Wolff realized he had crossed into Nazi territory.

Wolff later revisited the house and met the boy he delivered — an experience he often shares with a wide grin.

As he prepared for Friday’s trip — this time to the nation’s war memorial — he grinned again.

“I’m getting rewarded,” Wolff said, laughing.

Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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