Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Heritage meets horizons

by Airman 1st Class Spencer Gallien
23rd Wing Public Affairs

2/9/2009 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A former 23rd Fighter Group Flying Tiger from the era known as the 'greatest generation' of America recently discovered that his former U.S. Army Air Corps unit from World War II is still playing an active role in military operations today.

From 1944 to Dec. 15, 1945, Mr. Hild served with the 23rd FG as an enlisted intelligence gatherer for the group. He is now an avid collector of all things Flying Tigers related.

Upon learning that the Flying Tigers are still a unit within the Air Force, Jack Hild, president of the Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault foundation of the Flying Tigers and former president and historian for the Flying Tiger's 14th Air Force Association, donated a collection of books containing the history of the 23rd FG.

"For years I've been collecting what I could afford," said Mr. Hild. "A painting there, a book here...anytime I saw something about the Flying Tigers I tried to acquire it."

After the disbanding of the Flying Tigers' 14th AFA society, Mr. Hild helped form the Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault foundation of the Flying Tigers.

He was left numerous volumes cataloguing the Flying Tigers stories, activities and photos from 1949 to 2007.

During a tour of the wing, Mr. Hild presented the volumes along with a plaque to Col. Kenneth Todorov, 23rd WG commander.

"I wanted these books to be available for all Airmen to read and learn about the history of the men and women of the famed Flying Tigers," said Mr. Hild.

When I learned that the Flying Tigers and 23rd FG still existed, I knew the books should belong to the Airmen who carry on our traditions, he added.

Those books will now serve as a reminder to all 23rd WG Flying Tigers of the heritage and honor they represent whether it is in a deployed environment or at their home station, said Colonel Todorov.

"We're extremely thankful that Mr. Hild contacted and provided us with these priceless pieces of history," added Colonel Todorov. "It's truly a testament to all the Airmen who have had the honor of serving as a Flying Tiger."

During Mr. Hild's visit, he received a personal tour of the Parker Greene Base Support Center with Colonel Todorov and a tour of the 23rd FG with Col. Mike O'Dowd, 23rd FG commander and Capt. Jarrett Biggers, 74th Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot.

He also met General Chennault's descendant, Airman 1st Class William Chennault, 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit crew chief.

He presented Airman Chennault with two framed pictures, the first was a painting of his great granduncle that Mr. Hild had collected over the years and the second was the cover of a Times magazine featuring General Chennault.

"I've been thanked numerous times for my donations during my time here on base," said Mr. Hild. "But I should be the one thanking all the Airmen - it's a great day for me when I can spend time around all these Flying Tigers."


Jack Hild, 23rd Fighter Group World War II veteran, receives an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft briefing from Capt. Jarret Biggers, 74th Fighter Squadron pilot, photographed in the cockpit of A-10C 80-0194, during a visit at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, on January 30, 2009. During his visit, he met several current-day Flying Tiger members from the 74th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gina Chiaverotti) Hi-res

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