Following is the plaque dedication address given by 398th Bomb Group president Bill Comstock at the Air Force Academy on Thursday, Sept. 11, 1986:
Colonel Foerster, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen --
Today we honor the memory of our fallen comrades, the men who served with us in the 398th during World War II. For the next few minutes go back with me in time. Go back to 1942-1943-1944-1945. And listen. Listen carefully. You hear the roar of the engines. You feel the adrenalin pumping. The take off. Flight to the target. And then the welcome the enemy has prepared for us. Heavy flak and many fighters. And so the story goes. We know it so well. But the questions remain. What purpose did these brave men serve who gave their all? What did they accomplish? What is the result of their sacrifice?
Let me tell you what their legacy is. What their achievements were. Most people dont know that the Eighth Air Force had the highest number of casualties ... some 50,000 out of 200,000 people. This was the largest number of casualties of any single fighting unit of comparable size of World War II.
We can more fully appreciate this when we remember that the Eighth Air Force was flying missions two years before D-Day in 1944. There is no doubt among historians that the Eighth Air Force, with its precision daylight bombing, did more to speed the end of the war than any other single event. Our bombing efforts led to General Eisenhowers belief that this truly was the way to reduce ground casualties and destroy the key resources of the enemy. The German Luftwaffe leadership has told us that their war was over despite the fact they still had planes and pilots. They simply didnt have the fuel because our bombers had destroyed their refineries. But now, what is the point of all these reflections? Simply stated, the 398th Bomb Group played a most significant role in these developments.
It was the same General Eisenhower, who became President Eisenhower, who convinced President Truman that America should retain a large bomber force to deter the Soviets from further expansion. It was the same President Eisenhower who predicted that a separate Air Force was vital to our national defense. And in 1947, nearly 40 years ago, saw President Truman sign the legislation creating the United States Air Force. Eisenhower later approved the construction of the Academy at Colorado Springs.
Now, lets get close to where we are today -- here on the grounds of the Air Force Academy. Is there anyone here who really believes that this magnificent institution would be here today if it were not for these events?
The Air Force became co-equal partners in our national survival. And thank God it did! A GIFT FROM THE HEARTS OF ALL OF US. And I hope that those of you stationed here at the Academy will ponder these words, and realize more fully what these men did and how this institution came about.
And now, in the memory of the men of the 398th Bomb Group, we present this plaque to the United States Air Force Academy. While given in memory of those who died, both on the ground and in the air, it represents a gift from the hearts of all of us. This plaque is a part of us and we are a part of it.
In these brief remarks today I have traced the rationale and logic of the importance we place on this symbol. The Academy, as its permanent custodian, now takes on the responsibility for its preservation. And we pray it accepts the high ideals it represents to us ... and our nation.
You have our gratitude and we look to you in the future in the same fashion that we honor those whom this plaque represents. May you continue to have the wisdom, faith and courage so well displayed by those we honor. Our trust and our memory is now passed on to you. May God bless you.
ACADEMY ACCEPTS PLAQUE
On behalf of General Winfield Scott, superintendent, and the entire Air Force Academy, I am pleased to accept this plaque. It is such a strong reminder of those who have gone before. Your unit and the others here represented surely provide the heritage and foundation for todays Air Force. It is a strong link between the Air Force of the past and the Air Force of the future, which is represented by the Academy cadets here today. Your characteristics of leadership and sacrifice personifies what their training is all about. Thank you.
Colonel Robert Y. Foerster,
Chief of Staff
Air Force Academy
Transcribed by Dawne Dougherty, wife of Thomas Dougherty, gunner on the 602 Squadron Woodson crew.