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February 24, 2013

WWII veterans to embark on flight of honor

(Continued)

Cowles flipped through an album of black-and-white photographs from his time in the South Pacific, many of them highly graphic portraits of the horrors of war.

”The Japanese, they never stopped fighting,” he said. “It was murderous.”

In August of 1945, Cowles and some of his comrades saw a plane flying overhead and were told it would drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

Upon his return to the United States, he refused to buy anything made in Japan for years, he said.

FAMOUS SQUADRON

Gerald B. Edwards, 92, was a fighter pilot in World War II. He enlisted within 10 days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Flying came naturally to him.

“When you get off the ground, it’s like being turned loose. You have to get there to believe it,” he said, with tears in his eyes.

Edwards flew with the famous Checkertail Fighter Squadron of the 325th Fighter Wing of the Army Air Corps, which later became the U.S. Air Force.

The P-51 planes could reach speeds of 400 mph, Edwards said.

“We shot down more planes than all the others,” the Yonkers native said.

And they never lost a bomber plane they escorted, Edwards added.

“The bombers called us their ‘little friend.’”

His missions required him to fly from Africa north to Italy and farther north to Germany.

The painting “The Band of Brothers and the War’s Last Prize” by John D. Shaw, shows Edwards’s plane flying over Eagles Nest, Adolf Hitler’s retreat, as American soldiers of the Army 3rd Infantry Division celebrate below, drinking Hitler’s champagne and smoking his cigars.

Not only did he fly in World War II, but he continued to risk his life, flying planes for the military in the Vietnam and Korean wars, something a lieutenant colonel would not ordinarily do.

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