Whitesburg KY

Bee Liners still buzzing

My old squadron I was assigned to 60 years ago just made military history during the 21st Airlift Squadron’s 70th anniversary at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 17.

I served in this fine outfit for 15 years, stateside and overseas.

The Bee Liners got their nickname after a bee line, which means to fly in the most direct line possible.

During World War II, our old C-47 Skytrain Transport flew to drop supplies to American and Australian troops deep in the jungles of New Guinea. I was so impressed with how those transporters got the job done.

Flying in all that weather, kicking their loads out. I can’t believe what they were capable of, such as making drops on ridge tops.

It was done without the technology now available in the present-day aircraft that fly and allows them to make pinpoint drops to American soldiers in equally isolated locations in Afghanistan.

The 21st Airlift Squadron was formed outside of Brisbane, Australia, on April 3, 1942, six days before the besieged American and Filipino forces on Bataan surrendered to the Japanese Army and only a month after the Japanese shattered an Allied fleet at the Battle of the Java Sea.

The American planes included two planes from the Royal Dutch Airlines that were part of the still-fragile defense of Australia from the oncoming Japanese Navy, which was stopped by the U.S. Navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May, 1942.

Our C- 47 transports made the first paratroop drop in the Pacific in World War II on Sept. 5, 1943, when they dropped members of the 503 Parachute Infantry Regiment over New Guinea.

The squadron went back to war when the North Koreans invaded South Korea. It flew soldiers to the Persian Perimeter, dropped paratroopers over North Korea in 1950 to cut off the retreating North Korean Army, and evacuated 4,700 Marines and soldiers from the Chasin Reservoir four months later after the Chinese Army entered the war.

The 21st stayed in the Far East through the Viet Nam War, and finally came home from overseas and settled in at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. It has since taken part in numerous humanitarian and military missions and played a significant part in the War on Terror.

I ran into members of the squadron I had not seen in 60 years. I can say we have all changed a lot over the years.

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