October, 2004 Gathering of Eagles
This 352nd Virtual Fighter Group was first formed in May, 2000 with the blessing, permission, and help of the 352nd Virtual Fighter Group then flying in Warbirds. In November, 2003 this group received formal recognition from the 352nd Fighter Group Association, the official representatives of the veteran pilots, crew, and support folks who made up the 352nd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, during the dark days of World War II. It was, and is, an enormous privilege to be recognized by the veterans and to be able to represent them.
It was an even greater privilege to be invited by the Association to attend their "Gathering" held in Savannah, Georgia in October, 2004. CO Deacon, XO Persecutor, and Flying Ace Gator were able to attend from our group. Todzilla from the Warbirds 352nd VFG, as well as several other Warbirds members, were also in attendance.
The Gathering was a tremendous success, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Meeting those members of the "Greatest Generation" was a thrill in itself, being so warmly welcomed, so graciously treated, and so thoroughly entertained and educated was simply awe-inspiring. I am certain that I speak for all of us of the "Lesser Generation" when I express my utmost respect, admiration, and thanks for letting us be part of their Association.
Naturally, like any good "tourist", we went with cameras at the ready, snapping photos here, there, and everywhere. Because of an unfortunate "digital accident", several hundred images of the second and third days of the event were lost, but we've attempted to post surviving representative photos of the event.
The Gathering covered three days; the first day started with an introduction to the Association Veterans during a morning in the "Lobby" of the beautiful Marriott Hotel followed by an evening dinner. The following day the group visited the Mighty Eight Air Force Museum (a completely awesome and humbling experience in itself). On the last day, Monday, the group returned to the Savannah airport and spent the day in the presence of a group of warbirds ... "Hell-er Bust", "Cripes A'Mighty", and "Moonbeam McShine" chief among them.
We have attempted to organize these images along the lines of the event; one section includes images from the hotel lobby, another from the dinner, another the P-51s themselves, a section of "virtuals" distinct from the "real" veterans, and a miscellaneous grouping for those images that don't fit neatly into one of the other categories.
We've attempted to correctly identify people in each image, but so many names of so many wonderful folks new to us swirled around us that it is highly likely that we've made mistakes. Please, if you view these images and recognize someone, or we have mis-identified them, please let us know so we can make the corrections. We're indebted to Bob "Punchy" Powell for his help in adding names (correctly, we hope) to the faces shown in this photographs.
There are other photos available at the 352nd Fighter Groups Associations site, and at the 352nd Virtual Fighter Group (Warbirds)'s site.
Enjoy, we certainly did.