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Back to the past: current Tyndall Airmen meet WWII Checkertails

A current member of the 325th Fighter Wing Checkertails shows a World War II-era veteran of the 325th Fighter Group a T-38 Talon, which the wing uses to fly as aggressors against F-22 Raptor pilots. The 69th Annual Reunion of the 325th FG “Checkertail Clan” was held Sept. 25-28 in Tampa Bay, Fla., with three members of modern-day Checkertails sharing stories with more than 40 attendees.

A current member of the 325th Fighter Wing Checkertails shows a World War II-era veteran of the 325th Fighter Group a T-38 Talon, which the wing uses to fly as aggressors against F-22 Raptor pilots. The 69th Annual Reunion of the 325th FG “Checkertail Clan” was held Sept. 25-28 in Tampa Bay, Fla., with three members of modern-day Checkertails sharing stories with more than 40 attendees. (Curiously photo)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Members of modern-era 325th Fighter Wing united with the famed World War II-era 325th Fighter Group Checkertail Clan and their families recently to reconnect the shared experience that is being a Checkertail.

"The 325th Fighter Wing exists today because of the brave and courageous accomplishments of pilots, mechanics and support personnel of the Checkertail Clan during WWII," said Ted Roberts, 325th Fighter Wing historian.

The 69th Annual Reunion of the 325th FG "Checkertail Clan" was held Sept. 25-28 in Tampa Bay, Fla., with three members of modern-day Checkertails sharing stories with more than 40 attendees.

"It's important for military officers and enlisted men to understand why the Checkertails still exist today," said Roberts who did attend. "However, it's also important for the remaining veterans to feel pride that they were the ones who ensured the 325th Fighter Wing's continued existence today."

In addition to the history brought by Roberts, the wing also flew two T-38 Talons to MacDill Air Force Base, for the veteran's and their families to see the aircraft that now plays the role of "bad guy" in training F-22 Raptor pilots.

"They climbed right on up there," said Kathy Cluff, Checkertail Organization president, of the WWII veterans in attendance who saw the T-38s. "They were very excited."

The pilots spoke with veterans who flew or maintained the famous P-51 Mustangs against the Germans and liberated the town of Lesina in Italy, which honored the group with a memorial this past May. The Checkertails called Italy home beginning in December 1943. In March 1944, the citizens of Lesina greeted the group as liberator, when they arrived and the German occupation ended. The town would be the base for the Checkertails until the airfield was shut down in 1945. In total, the 325th Fighter Group received credit for 537 aerial victories during World War II.

There were a number of veterans who could not attend this year's events due to medical reasons, Cluff said, and many followed the event on the groups' Facebook page.

"There were a lot here in spirit," she said. "[The event] went really well thanks to Tyndall. It was the icing on the cake." 

Cluff added they would like to hold a reunion at Tyndall in the future.