Memorial Plaque Dedication
and Reunion Page

Memorial Plaque and Reunion page added 02/01/08, Last Updated 06/29/11.

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553rd Wing
Squadron Patches

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 the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Memorial Plaque - THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!

Final Reunion Financial Report

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 charities.

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 USAF.

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 Laos.

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 04/25/09.

Find your Buddy Project

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 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 Available

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 at

Video DVD of the Dedication and Reunion in the Works

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, 2008

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 are images of the EC-121R and Snoopy. Right case has patches of Batcat and other Igloo White units.

553rd Recon Wing Memorabilia items
The Last order for memorabilia has been placed and filled!
Check with Bob Pruiksma to learn if anything remains!

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 - to learn what may be available, which is very limited if anything.

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, Batcat 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 front.

Another memorabilia item is available on going - Bill Herridge can provide CD's of the Batcat songs. Contact Bill Herridge via email at

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 profanity-laced observations.
Golden Jockstraps
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 home.

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:
Bill Herridge
P.O. Box 119
Gatesville, Texas 76528


Bill Herridge
Major (Retired)
USAR Engineers

Firday moring August 22, 2008 - the
Memorial Plaque is Dedicated

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 performance.

Group Photo after the Dedication

Photographer Bill Alrich and wife Nancy Aldrich took this panoramic 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) 434-9287.

Locating the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Plaque

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 top.

Restoration Facility Tour Friday

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 Friday

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. Lockheed 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 One.

Igloo White Sensor Display Friday evening

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 and Reunion.
Pilots instrument panel,
Flight engineer panel,
Navigators station,
Radio Operators station,
Radar Operators station 1,
Radar Operators station 2,
and the Crew Rest area.

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 Wing
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 Colors.

Bob Pruiksma took these views of the tables at the banquet dinner. See if you can find yourself.
table view 1, look closely and you can see the B-52 in the top background,
table view 2, at the top right are the donations covered until accepted by the Museum,
table view 3, at the left you can see part of the flags of the 50 states displayed,
table view 4,
table view 5,
table view 6,
table view 7,
table view 8,
table view 9,
table view 10,
table view 11,
table view 12,
table view 13,
table view 14,
table view 15,

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 Westin.

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 Banquet Dinner

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 Museum

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!

Saturday, 8/23/08, Events

Golf Match

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 Fairborn.

Silent Auction ended at 1800 (6PM) Saturday evening

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 Overview of the items on auction.

Jake Awalt, who was unable to attend, donated two fine hand made wooden bowls, Smaller Bowl is made from Mesquite Burl -- Harvested from a tree in Yoakum, Texas. The other, larger, hand made wooden bowl is a Double 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 buckle.
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 1:72 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 wording.
John Loftus donated a Connie Belt buckle.
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 departure

Sunday was the day for final good byes and return travel home.

USAF Museum Homepage

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 new Virtual Tour of the USAF Museum. Added 9/15/98, Updated 06/29/11.

A 553rd Reconnaissance Wing Thank You
to the National Museum of the USAF Staff

The entire staff at the National Museum of the USAF were always professional, and knowledgeable. I would like to highlight these individuals particularly.

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 You!

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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