Former World War II Pilot reunited with P-47

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Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel is wheeled around a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. Hertel flew the Thunderbolt over Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II and had not seen one since the 1960's. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel is wheeled around a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. Hertel flew the Thunderbolt over Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II and had not seen one since the 1960’s. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

92-year-old retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel was reunited with the P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., February 28.

After being wheeled out to the flight line, Hertel was greeted by Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Commander of Air Combat Command, Charles Hainline and Tom Gregory, both P-47 Thunderbolt Heritage Flight pilots.

Hertel flew the legendary Thunderbolt while stationed in Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II and had not seen the aircraft since retiring from the military in the 1960’s.

“When I found out it was going to be here I just had to bring him,” said Hertel’s daughter Peggy Hertel. “It’s been his dream for so long to see one again.”

Although he does not remember a lot of his past, there is one thing that has stayed clear in his memory.

“He has always remembered his airplanes,” said Peggy. “I think he was thinking he was going to get in and fly it.”

Hertel smiled and laughed as he was wheeled around the aircraft, stopping to reach out with his war-fought hands to touch his old friend.

Just as seeing the aircraft was exciting for the veteran, Gen. Carlisle and the P-47 pilots were in for a treat as well.

“I brought some of his pictures and log book, everybody wants to see the log book,” said Peggy. “It shows some

Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel is wheeled around a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Feb. 28, 2015. Hertel flew the Thunderbolt over Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II and had not seen one since the 1960's. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

Robert Hertel is wheeled around a P-47 Thunderbolt, Feb. 28, 2015. Hertel flew the Thunderbolt over Iwo Jima, Japan during World War II and had not seen one since the 1960’s. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham)

of the bombing flights that he went on and firefights and even has a couple of tourist tours that he flew. It’s quite a bit of history to see.”

The P-47 pilots ended WWII with 3,752 air-to-air kills while flying more than 423,000 sorties.

“Thanks for making us the greatest Air Force in the world,” Gen. Carlisle told Hertel. “You are a part of our heritage. We wouldn’t be where we are at if it wasn’t for people like you that set us up for success.”

Hertel left the aircraft with an ACC commander’s coin, P-47 patch, and Heritage Flight memorabilia to remember the day he was finally reunited with his old pal.

“I am just really glad that I was able to bring him here and that everybody has been so kind with showing the plane and talking to him,” said Peggy.

Credits: Air Combat Command




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Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

2 Comments

  1. Dave Mitchell on

    Great story! One of the best things I shared with my dad who flew P47s in WWII was when I surprised him with a trip to see a P47 – the owner let him sit in it and I stood on the wing. My dad smiled so big and it was just like it was 1944 again. He ran the preflight cockpit check just like he did the last time he flew one. It was magic as I am sure it was for Peggy and Robert. I lost my dad a year ago – a lot of these fighter pilots are leaving us.

    • Dear Sir Mitchell, thanks for your comment. If you ever want to share your father’s story with others, please feel free to contact us. Maybe we can dedicate an article to him. Thanks in advance. Glad you enjoy our content, keep visiting!

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