and Reunion Page
Memorial Plaque and Reunion page added 02/01/08, Last Updated 06/29/11.
Between August 21 and August 24, 2008, the 553rd Reconnaissance
Wing held a Memorial Dedication and Reunion at the National
Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright Patterson Air Force
Base, Dayton, Ohio. All squadrons of the 553rd Reconnaissance
Wing were represented by the 137 Batcats and their guests who
were present for the Dedication and Reunion. It was the honor of
the Batcats to have relatives attend from the Michael Cotterill
and William McCormick families, as well as 3 survivors of the
Sept. 6, 1969 loss. Here are the names of those who attended the
Dedication and Reunion.
The memorial plaque, mounted in the Museum Memorial Park, honors
the 22 Batcats who gave the supreme sacrifice while on
operational missions in Southeast Asia. Here are the names of the
22 Who Lost their Life on
Operational Missions while assigned to the 553rd
Reconnaissance Wing at Korat RTAFB. Click here for an image of
Reconnaissance Wing Memorial Plaque - THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!
Final Reunion Financial
As indicated before the reunion I never planned on keeping any
money in excess of needed to pay bills. Because of a better than
planned attendance, gifts and donations from those who
couldn't attend, and some money donated after the event,
there was an amount remaining. All this was donated to two
One donation was made to the Susan G.
Komen for the cure organization of $1,500. If you
are not familiar with this group its purpose is to fight breast
cancer. We hope and pray their efforts are successful.
Second donation was made to the Air
Force Aid Society, the official charity of the
USAF. That donation, also of $1,500, will help current members of
The money was donated to both organizations in the name of the
"553rd Recon Wing - Batcat." There wasn't that much
money remaining after the reunion, however some local friends
wanted to contribute as well. Interesting that it took awhile to
get the donations accepted in the name of Batcat and still meet
IRS regulations. Much easier to donate as an individual.
MEMORABILIA - Bob and Phyllis Pruiksma did a fantastic job with
the memorabilia. A large number of requests arrived after the
reunion and these requests have now been filled. With all their
work I asked Bob to designate a charity for the memorabilia
profits. Bob selected the TLCB
Thailand library fund, and the TLCB Laos charity. Bob sent each a
check for $500. These will help children in Thailand and
MUSIC CD's - Bill Herridge, who performed Amazing Grace
beautifully on the bagpipes at the dedication, followed through
by selling Batcat music CD's after the reunion. That money
from CD sales was part which went to the Susan G. Komen for the
cure, and the Air Force Aid Society donations.
Final Reunion Financial data Added
Find your Buddy
Many times over the years I've been asked many times
questions like: "do you have a list of those who worked in
EMS during 1968," or "who were the other crew chiefs
while I was at Korat," or "do you have a list of those
who were on aircrew 27." Looking back I wish I had that kind
of information. Well now David
Butler has started such a list! David has started
an Excel spreadsheet with searchable information. If you are
interested in participating in this project please send David
Butler an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
providing the following information: 1 - Name, 2 - email address,
3 - 553rd organization, 4 - shop, crew etc., 5 - dates in
country, 6 - Small remarks IE looking for someone, do you
remember this or that.
David Butler will have the first release of the spreadsheet at
the reunion. All who would like to participate are asked to
contact David Butler by email.
Audio CD of Dedication
David Butler also taped the Memorial Dedication and has it on CD.
If you want a copy of the CD contact David. He only requests the
cost to duplicate and ship the CD. Contact David Butler by email
Video DVD of the Dedication and
Reunion in the
Joseph Slattery took video of the dedication and reunion. Joe has
let me know the video, on Super 8mm tape, came out good. He is
now in the process of coverting it to DVD. Two DVD's will be
created, the Thursday evening get together, and the Memorial
Dedication. Second DVD will be the banquet dinner. More to come
on this project.
Dedication and Reunion Begins
Thursday evening August 21,
The reunion began on Thursday evening, August 21, at the Holiday
Inn Fairborn, the official hotel. We thank Kris Davis for her help us make
this a fine event. The first welcome came from the Holiday Inn
Fairborn Staff with a 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Welcome.
Attendees then checked in to Get their Name
Tags, which looked like this.
Name tags were printed courtesy of Lisa Willis, Greene County
Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Holiday Inn Fairborn provided the hospitality suite decorated
with this Welcome
Banner, note the personal displays on the tables along the
wall. Here are some more views of the opening evening, view 1 showing
additional personal items on display, view 2 with David
Butler who is working on the "Find your Buddy"
project, and view 3 showing
friends meeting, some for the first time in 40 years, others for
the first time.
Here are some details of some personal items. Three display
cases, resting on an escape and evasion map, Australian Bush hat,
Korat cigarette lighter, and plaques. Here are some close ups
of the display cases. Left case has images of
553rd EMS, FMS and OMS scenes and a red X pencil. Center case
images of the EC-121R and Snoopy. Right case has patches of
Batcat and other Igloo White units.
553rd Recon Wing Memorabilia
The Last order for memorabilia has been placed and filled!
Check with Bob Pruiksma to learn if anything
Bob and Phyllis
Pruiksma purchased pins, patches, hats, T-Shirts,
sweat shirts and golf shirts for sale at the Dedication and
Reunion. It may be that Bob has just some items still available.
Send Bob an email at email@example.com
- to learn what may be available, which is very limited if
Here are images of some of the memorabilia items Bob and Phyllis
procured for the ruenion: 553rd
Reconnaissance Wing Hat, 553rd
Reconnaissance Wing Batcat Patch, Reunion
Challenge Coin, which is about 1 1/2 inch in diameter,
Pin, full color enamel, with pin back so it can attach to hat
or clothing, Golf Shirt.
A closeup view of the
embroidery on the Golf Shirt, T-Shirts - T-Shirt
front, and T-Shirt
back, Sweat shirt - Sweat Shirt
Another memorabilia item is available on going - Bill Herridge can provide CD's
of the Batcat songs. Contact Bill Herridge via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Herridge was an avionics tech (ILS, tacan, VOR etc) with
553rd from Oct. 1968 until Nov. 1969. He provides this
information: While at Korat I spent a lot of time at the
reel-to-reel hobby shop dubbing stuff from the library. I
collected the following:
What the Captain Means--tongue in cheek interview with a Phantom
pilot with a PAO offering clarification of the captain's
Ode to Batcats and Connies
Batcat barracks interview--this was done by Batcat pilot--(then)
Capt J. J. Smith, who has contributed numerous articles for this
Batcat page. The PAO was Capt Bill Person (CICO), who also has
made numerous contributions, a take-off on the "What the
Captain Means" interview.
I also taped the Bob Hope show from 1968 off of AFTN radio, and
also taped the highlights of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and made
CD's of them as well, but I left those CD's here at
I made up 10 of the "Bawdy Batcats" CD's mentioned
above and took them to the reunion in Dayton. All sold quickly,
with proceeds going to offset costs of the reunion. The CD is
R-rated but offers a reminder of some of the things we all were
doing back then to make the tour a little more bearable. I am
offering to provide these CD's at a cost of $10.00.
Please make payable to "Larry Westin - 553rd Reunion
Fund." If interested, you may send me a check and I'll
forward it on to Larry Westin.
My address is:
P.O. Box 119
Gatesville, Texas 76528
Firday moring August 22, 2008 -
Memorial Plaque is
Friday begins with attendess
gathering in front of the Holiday Inn for the bus to the
Memorial Park at the National Museum of the USAF. This view shows
the buses arriving at Memorial Park for
the dedication. The Memorial Dedication begins with Batcat Bill
Herridge opening the dedication with Amazing Grace on the
bagpipes. The dedication begins with Master of
Ceremonies SMSgt. Les Robbins retired, left, Larry Westin center,
and Major General Charles Metcalf retired, right. Note at
this time the plaque is covered (behind MC Les Robbins). Colors are
posted by SSgt. Tabatha Benge, Sr. Airman Yesmell Morel, Sr.
Airman Gerhard Schumacher, and A1C Brandon Mitchell. General
Metcalf is on the far left, Father Mike Kreutzer who performed
the invocation is on the far right. Posting the
colors view 2, and Colors
Posted. After the plaque is uncovered and presented to the
Museum by Larry Westin on behalf of all 553rd Reconnaissance Wing
members, General Metcalf
accepts the plaque for the Museum. After the plaque is
accepted Les Robbins reads
each name of the 22 553rd Recon Wing members lost on operational
missions, while Larry Westin rings the bell after each name is
read. The dedication concludes with a poem read by Les
Robbins, benediction by Father Mike Kreutzer, retirement of
colors, and Taps played by
bugler TSgt Brian Hornbuckle who did a beautiful
Group Photo after the
Photographer Bill Alrich and wife Nancy Aldrich took this
photo of those attending 553rd Reconnaissance Wing
Dedication. This photograph is available by mail. Send $25
for each print desired to William F. Aldrich, 2501 E. Rahn Rd.,
Kettering, OH 45440. More details by calling Bill at (937)
Locating the 553rd Reconnaissance
For those who couldn't attend, and in the future have an
opportunity to visit the National Museum of the United States Air
Force, you can find the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing plaque in the
Memorial Park. Look for this sculpture about
the middle of Memorial Park. There are many memorials, look
for the group with the memorial with the
globe on top with airplanes circling the globe. From this
view the Batcat plaque is on the far right, third down from the
Restoration Facility Tour
After the Memorial Dedication we bused to the Restoration
Facility on the base. When we arrived at the Restoration hangars
we split into groups of about 10 each. Various projects were
viewed. Here we see how plexiglass is
formed to provide a replacement for a turret. Here we see the
renovation of a Wright R-3350
Engine. The Wright R-3350 radial engine is the engine used on
the EC-121R. Here we are viewing the "Swoose"
a B-17D which was at Clark AB at the time of the Japanese
attack of Dec. 7, 1941. Another B-17, an E model, is the Memphis Belle,
one of the first B-17's to complete 25 missions over Europe
in WWII. Until taking this tour I thought the Memphis Belle
was the first, but learned it was actually the second B-17 to
complete 25 missions over Europe.
Presidential Aircraft Tour
After departing the Restoration Facility tour, next was the tour
of Presidential Aircraft in another hangar on the base. Entering
we see the Douglas VC-54C
"Sacred Cow". Note the serial number is a fake.
This airplane is actually serial number 42-107451, but was
painted with the serial number of a C-54 lost at sea, 42-72252,
and remained with that serial number ever since. This was done
when President Roosevelt flew in the airplane to the Yalta
Conference. Later this airplane was used by President Truman.
Jetstar 61-2492 in the foreground, and Lockheed VC-121E 53-7885
in backgorund. The VC-121E was used by President Eisenhower,
and named Columbine III. This was a plush version of the EC-121R
flow by the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing. Boeing VC-137C
serial number 62-6000, first used first by President Kennedy.
This is the aircraft President Johnson was in when sworn into
office after the assassination of President Kennedy. This photo
was taken from the front door of the VC-54C. Note the Beech C-45
(Beech model 18), was not a Presidential aircraft. Which ever
aircraft the President is flying on uses the call sign Air Force
Igloo White Sensor Display Friday
For many of us the Dedication and Reunion was the first
opportunity to actually view the sensors which we monitored. My
special thanks to Museum Director General Metcalf and Senior
Curator Terry Aitken for taking these from Museum storage and
building a fine display. First is a view of all the
sensors. This display is located behind the right wing of the
Museum EC-121D. Individual sensors are: ADSID I on the
left, with a HELOSID I on the right. ADSID is short for Air
Delivered Seismic Intrustion Detector. HELOSID is short for
Helicopter Delivered Seismic Intrusion Detector. Cutaway of ADSID
III on the left, and ACOUSID III on the right. ACOUSID is a
combination Acoustic and Seismic Intrustion Detector. ADSID III
sensor a refined later development seismic sensor.
Our Special Thanks to the
National Museum of the United States Air Force for
taking the time and effort to retreive the sensors from storage
so they could be displayed for the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing
Dedication and Reunion! Thank You!
Veteran Interior Access to the
Museum EC-121D 53-555
General Metcalf gave his approval for veterans attending the
553rd Reconnaissance Wing Dedication and Reunion to have interior
access to the Museum EC-121D 53-555. Here are some views of the
EC-121D I took about 3 years ago. I am using these views because
there was more open area around the airplane. Outside view 1
shows the right rear view
of 555, while outside view 2 shows a right front
view of 555. These images taken in 2005.
Here are the interior views I took of 555 during the Dedication
Operators station 1,
Operators station 2,
and the Crew Rest
UNFOUNDED RUMOR about the Museum EC-121D
555 - the entry doors are the original size. The
Museum did NOT rivet in side
pieces to make the doors narrower. So guys since the doors are
NOT narrower, and if it is now a tighter fit, logic says
we may have expanded wider
over the last 40 years!
Dinner Banquet Under the
at the Museum
After the Veteran Interior access to the EC-121D and sensor
display, we had a beautiful banquet dinner in the Modern Flight
Gallery of the Museum. Overview number
1, Overview number
2. David Sasilea provided this Panoramic
View of the Banquet. Dinner began with the Posting of the
Bob Pruiksma took these views of the tables at the banquet
dinner. See if you can find yourself.
view 1, look closely and you can see the B-52 in the top
view 2, at the top right are the donations covered until
accepted by the Museum,
view 3, at the left you can see part of the flags of the 50
After Dinner Speakers and Donations
to the Museum
Multiple people have sent me images of the after dinner
activities. Again these images are very dark. The area is very
large and more lighting was needed than a camera flash can
provide. After the banquet dinner was complete the master of
ceremonies for the dinner is myself, Larry
Opening our after dinner speakers is Angela
Blackburn personal representative of Ohio United States
Senator Sherrod Brown. Angela Blackburn read us a very nice
letter from Senator Brown. We thank Senator Brown and Angela
Blackburn for their participation. Angela Blackburn also
participated in the dedication ceremonies - Thank you!
The Museum accepted 3 original Batcat items which were accepted
at the banquet dinner. This view shows Larry Westin on
the left, with Senior Museum Curator Terry Aitken center, and
Dale Lautenbach right with the presentation to the Museum of
the original Batcat painting. This painting was donated by first
553rd Reconnaissance Wing commander Gus Weiser, who was not able to
attend. I thank also Gus Weiser's son Dag Weiser and his wife
Leslie Weiser, for
their work in making this painting available to the Museum. This
is a close up of the original Batcat painting
by Milton Caniff creator of the cartoon strip Steve Canyon.
Second item accepted by the Museum, and donated by Stan McWhinnie, is the wooden
statue from the 553rd
Reconnaissance Squadron headquarters. Curator Terry Aitken on
the left, Dale Lautenbach on the right. Here is a close up of the
Statue. Bob Levy
donated his flight suit as the first enlisted man at Korat Royal
Thai Air Force Base, and the first Batcat to complete 100 combat
missions. Bob Levy, shown
here at the podium, was on hand to make the presentation.
Here is a view of Bob Levy's
flight suit to the right of Dale Lautenbach.
Following the acceptance of donations, Lt. Col. Fred
Johnson U.S. Army retired, tells of his experience with
Batcat. Lt. Col. Johnson, who was at the time a company commander
with the Army 75th Rangers, "P" company, told those
attending how Batcat communications helped get his unit out of
trouble when their communications broke down. Lt. Col. Johnson
received a well deserved standing ovation from the 553rd
Reconnaissance Wing attending for his talk.
Because of the secrecy surrounding the 553rd, actual events such
as Col. Johnson's were never disseminated. Unless you
happened to be the air crew involved when a situation like this
occurred, you never knew it happened. And it happened often. I
was especially pleased that those who were assigned to the EMS,
FMS and OMS maintenance squadrons attending, and who worked long
hot hours repairing engines, or fixing radios, adjusting
pressurization, and all other absouletely essential maintenance
tasks, could hear first hand that the work they performed was
instrumental in helping others survive the conflict in Vietnam.
For without the hard work of maintenance none of the airplanes
would fly. Good work guys! Col. Johnson a big note of
appreciation to you for taking the time to travel and talk with
all of us of the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing at our Dedication and
Reunion - Thank You Much!!
Ending the evening Larry Westin and
Jack Sikora (not shown in this image) gave an overview of
Batcat. How the situation in SEA developed, the problem of supply
from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, details of the Ho Chi Minh
Trail, the proposed "think tank" solution, presentation
to President Johnson, the secret White House memorandum which
created Batcat, and the work accomplished. Also included an
example of the secrecy surrounding the operation. When Batcat
moved to Korat control transferred from ADC (Air Defense Command)
to PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) and 13th Air Force. When 13th Air
Force assumed administrative control of the 553rd Reconnaissance
Wing the planners at 13th Air Force sent Col. Weiser instructions
that the wing must have bombadiers and photo interpreters.
Clearly the secrecy which surrounded the unit extended well up
the chain of command. So guys you were not the only ones who
didn't have a full picture of the operation. Mostly I wanted
the relatives of those killed in the losses to know their loved
ones performed an important job, and it helped others keep their
names off the Vietnam Memorial Walls.
A really nice setting for the
Here is a view of the stage after the
banquet dinner and before the colors are retired. The flags
of all 50 states are immediately behind the stage, the United
States and Air Force flags, along with the uncovered donations
are on stage. That is Dale Lautenbach behind the Batcat painting.
It was a very nice setting!
After Dinner - private visit of the
With the banquet dinner and speakers completed, the Museum was
open for only those with the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Dedication
and Reunion. Without the large public crowds it was much easier
to view the exhibits. At 2200 (10PM) buses took those with the
553rd Reconnaissance Wing back to the hotel.
When I returned to the hotel I had the opportunity to talk at
some length with members of the Cotterill and McCormick families.
We especially thank them for coming.
Friday was a very full day of activities!
Rich Upton and Dale Lautenbach arranged a golf outting. Seven
Batcats participated in the matches.
It was pretty hot on Saturday with many opting for cooler
activities around the Dayton area.
Some with limited available time returned home Saturday. Others
socialized in the hospitality suite at the Holiday Inn
Silent Auction ended at 1800 (6PM)
Twelve items were donated for the Silent
Auction! Everyone of the items sold bringing in almost
$600 to help with costs of the Dedication and Reunion! Here is an
of the items on auction.
Jake Awalt, who was
unable to attend, donated two fine hand made wooden bowls,
Bowl is made from Mesquite Burl -- Harvested from a tree in
Yoakum, Texas. The other, larger, hand made wooden bowl is a
Diamond Bowl made from Mesquite and Maple -- Harvested by the
Texas Highway Department and salvaged by Jake Awalt along the
Highway 77 North Expansion in Victoria County, Texas. Please
visit the South Texas WoodTurners/
homepage for more information.
Bob Pruiksma donated
this EC-121R on
Canvas. Bob also donated a necktie chain
made from a Batcat pin, and a Connie Belt
Larry Westin donated
this 1:100 solid wood Lockheed EC-121R
model painted in Batcat camoflauge.
Bill Holbrook donated
a larger 1:72 plastic
Lockheed EC-121R model, and here is a second view of the
EC-121R complete with base.
Ricky Dietsch donated
an embroidered jacket for auction. Ricky will stitch a large
BatCat patch on the right chest. On the left chest he will stitch
the Air Force emblem, Name and Rank of whoever wins the jacket at
the silent auction. The jacket on
display is Ricky's own, here showing a closeup of
the embroidered patches. Winner choose size and exact
John Loftus donated a
Bill Schultz donated
this Corgi Die Cast EC-121R (image not available.
Dean Boys donated a
second Corgi Die Cast EC-121R (image not available.
Bill Herridge donated
a CD's with the Batcat songs sung at Korat. See memorabilia
section above if you would like to order one of these CD's
from Bill. Bill Herridge is shown above playing the bagpipes to
open the Memorial Dedication.
Thank you everyone for participating in the silent auction!
Sunday, 8/24/08, a day of
Sunday was the day for final good byes and return travel
U.S. Air Force
Museum National Museum of the United States Air Force at
Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton Ohio. Details on
museum aircraft plus links to other government sites. Here is a
Tour of the USAF Museum. Added 9/15/98, Updated 06/29/11.
A 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Thank
to the National Museum of the USAF
The entire staff at the National Museum of the USAF were always
professional, and knowledgeable. I would like to highlight these
Major General Charles Metcalf
retired, who participated in the dedication, and
gave us permission for the interior access to the Museum EC-121D
and authorization for the dipslay of the sensors - Thank
Senior Curator Terry
Aitken, who worked up the sensor display, and
participated in the banquet dinner accepting the donations, and
talked about the direction the Museum is taking to highlight
people - Thank You!
And a SPECIAL Thank You to
Jane Leach special
events coordinator. Jane is a skilled professional who always
worked to answer my questions and resolve my concerns and issues.
Only through her knowledgeable experience and willingness to help
was the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Dedication and Reunion
possible. Thank You Jane Leach!
We sincerely hope you enjoyed yourself at the 553rd
Reconnaissance Wing Memorial Dedication and Reunion. Thank you
for attending and your interest!
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