MILLVILLE -- More than 60 years have passed since the 412th
Fighter Squadron fought the Nazis across Europe.
Some members of the P-47 Thunderbolt squadron trained at the
Millville Airport, which was Millville Army Airfield during World
So the airport was an ideal
location for the squadron's annual reunion.
Twenty-three squadron members, now in their 80s, attended the
reunion that began Monday and ends today. Some came with wives,
children and grandchildren.
On Tuesday, the veterans visited and toured the Millville Army
Air Field Museum.
"This is probably the most special reunion we've had here in a
number of years," said Robert Trivellini, a museum board member.
"The P-47 is as important to them as it is to us."
The P-47 Thunderbolt is considered the most effective fighter
bomber of World War II. Millville Army Airfield became the nation's
first air defense base in August 1941, and the city high school
nickname became the Thunderbolts because of Millville's association
with the fighter plane.
The reunion highlight Tuesday was the arrival of "Jacky's
Revenge," a P-47 belonging to the American Air Power Museum in
It is one of only eight P-47 Thunderbolts that still fly, said
Joe Ritz, 84, of Baltimore.
Ritz was a crew chief who saw combat across Europe. "England,
France, Holland, Belgium and Germany," he said, recalling where he
was deployed during the war.
Ritz said the veterans hadn't seen a P-47 at a reunion in years.
He said he contacted Vineland resident Bill Rich to help organize
this year's reunion.
Rich was a P-47 pilot for another fighter squadron and is
chairman emeritus of the museum here.
"He was here with me in 1943," Ritz said, standing next to Rich,
Between 1942 and 1945, more than 10,000 men and women served at
Millville Army Airfield, and 1,500 pilots received advanced fighter
Trivellini said he heard some great stories while talking with
veterans at the reunion.
"A couple of the guys were staying in Belgium, and they
befriended some orphans," he said. "Some were Jews that were being
hidden. It's a pretty amazing story."
Norbert Polanski, 84, traveled the longest distance to attend the
reunion. He came from Kenosha, Wis. "It took two days to drive," he
Lloyd Robert Jones, who lives in a Baltimore suburb, attended the
reunion with his 89-year-old father, Lloyd Jones of Westchester
County, N.Y. "All the guys here are proud of what they have done,"
said Lloyd Robert Jones.
Many of the veterans watched "Jacky's Revenge" leave the airport
The plane circled around the airport and descended once, giving
the veterans a chance to wave goodbye.