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August 2022
What's Coming???
What takes a year to plan, two days to happen, has 25,000+ names, a parade or two, the Avengers, a boat that flies, cats, and a Space Guppy? Read on to find out!
Decorations, Awards of Famed Ace
Steve Pisanos Donated to Museum
Reproductions of the 33 decorations and awards earned during the lifetime of famed Royal Air Force and U.S. Air Force pilot, and double ace, Col. Steve N. Pisanos (USAF-ret.) were donated to the Museum by his son, Jeff Pisanos, on August 4. The decorations, mounted in a shadow box, have been added to an exhibit devoted to Steve Pisanos and his accomplishments.

Steve Pisanos, who died in 2016 at the age of 96, was the recipient of U.S., British, French and Republic of Vietnam awards and decorations, including three Legions of Merit, five U.S. Distinguished Flying Crosses, eleven Air Medals, and the Purple Heart. In 2010, in recognition of his achievements as a fighter pilot and his fighting as part of the French Resistance in World War II, he was awarded France's highest decoration, the Legion of Honor.

Steve came to the U.S. from Greece in 1938 and learned to fly in his spare time. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the British Royal Air Force and was later assigned to No. 71 Eagle Squadron flying Spitfires. After the U.S. entered the war, he became a member of the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Air Force's 4th Fighter Group flying P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs.

After his P-51 crash-landed in France because of engine failure during a 1944 mission, he joined the French Resistance and evaded the Germans for several months.

Steve became a test pilot at Wright Field in Ohio in late 1944, flying captured enemy airplanes, including Germany's Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. He also tested the first American combat jet, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star. During a visit to the Museum in 2014, he said the P-80 "would have done well" against the Me 262. He also tested such fighters as the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, was involved with the development of various weapons, and helped integrate the McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom II fighter into the Hellenic Air Force. He also flew in Vietnam.

Jeff has said his father's "proudest moment...was May 3, 1943, in London, England. He was the first American citizen naturalized on foreign soil." As such, the ceremony was attended by Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. The three remained life-long friends. Cronkite wrote the foreword to Steve's 2008 book "The Flying Greek".

Steve's last assignment, in 1970, was as Chief of the U.S. Air Force Mission in Athens, Jeff said. "He thought that that was the greatest assignment he could ever receive. It was a full circle for him -- from Athens to the United States, and back to Athens."

Museum curator and historian Gene Pfeffer has said Steve Pisanos' life has three dimensions. "On the first dimension there is Steve's story -- an Eagle Squadron member, a 4th Fighter Group member, a double ace, riding the Mustang down, six months with the French underground, the providing of intelligence to the OSS, the escape through enemy lines, the time testing the U.S. first operational jet fighter, his Vietnam service, the return to Greece as a USAF Colonel, and his 33 decorations. On the second dimension, there is Jeff's partnership with the Museum to ensure that Steve's legacy of heroism is not lost to time. The third dimension is the role of the Museum itself in preserving the legacy of airmen like Steve from the greatest generation."

Pfeffer and Bill Klaers, Museum President and CEO, accepted the donation.

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
Ferocious Kamikaze Attacks at Okinawa were
Acknowledged in Plans to Invade Japan
The Battle of Okinawa, from April 1 to June 22, 1945, marked Japan's largest use of kamikaze tactics, and their success became a factor in Allied thinking about how to proceed with a projected invasion of Japan itself.

The suicide attacks were deadly and unsettling to those aboard the Allied ships that were part of a massive invasion force -- the single largest amphibious invasion of the Pacific in World War II. Its mission was to take Okinawa and use it as a base for an invasion of the Japanese home islands, only 340 miles away.

Kamikaze attacks took a heavy toll on the Okinawa fleet, Museum docent and Marine Corps aviation veteran Arnie Easterly said in a July 30 presentation at the Museum titled "Kamikazes in the Battle of Okinawa."

In just a two-month period, he told an audience of about 350 at the WestPac hangar, 64 of 261 ships were sunk or knocked out of the war by kamikaze attacks; 368 vessels, including 8 aircraft carriers, were damaged; 7,000 Allied sailors were wounded; and 4,900 were killed or missing in action.

The ferocity of the kamikaze attacks on ships was matched by that of Japanese troops on the ground at Okinawa. Some 12,000 Americans were killed there, as were 77,000 Japanese soldiers.

While estimates varied widely, the planned invasion of Japan itself was projected to cost five hundred thousand to one million Allied casualties, and more than a million Japanese casualties. Widespread kamikaze strikes on the attacking fleet were anticipated.

The invasion, of course, never took place because Japan surrendered after use of the until-then secret atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, resulting in the immediate deaths of some 100,000 military personnel and civilians. President Harry S. Truman and other American leaders had to weigh such numbers against those likely to occur in an invasion, Easterly said.

Easterly outlined characteristics of kamikaze, or Special Attack Units. When such missions began in October 1944, he said, highly skilled pilots were used to ensure that targets would be struck. But when losses began to mount, such pilots were used only as leaders. Training was minimal but adequate, and pilots were all young, between the ages of about 17 and 23.

Training included instruction in the concept of bushido, or "the way of the warrior," Easterly said. "It's dictated by honor, loyalty, obedience to superiors, and willingness to die for the emperor."
The idea of suicide missions wasn't new, but Japan in World War II was the first sovereign nation to institutionalize it, Easterly said. It was based on several Japanese traditions. One was the understanding that divine intervention in the form of deadly typhoons had destroyed invading fleets sent to Japan in the 13th century by the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan; kamikaze pilots were thus thought of as "divine wind".

Another factor was the country's embrace of the bushido code, which emphasizes the attitudes, behavior and lifestyle of the samurai warrior. For these and other reasons, the Japanese public revered the kamikaze pilots.

But in the Western world, the beliefs behind the idea of kamikaze were disturbing.

"To the Allies, steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition of the sanctity of life, the apparent willingness of Japanese carry out suicide attacks was profoundly shocking," says Saul David, professor of military history at the University of Buckingham, England.

"But then, as scholars of the kamikaze point out," says David, according to Easterly, "the word suicide in Japanese does not always have the same 'immoral connotation' that it has in English. Two versions -- jiketsu (self-determination) and jisai (self-judgment) -- 'suggest an honorable or laudable act done in the public interest.' There is, moreover, no ethical or religious taboo regarding suicide in Japan’s traditional religion of Shintoism. Instead, the Japanese samurai warrior code of bushido -- heavily influenced by Shintoism, as well as Buddhism and even Confucianism -- revered self-sacrifice and fighting to the bitter end for emperor and country."

When the battle for Okinawa began on April 1, 1945, Japan assigned a huge number of its planes, some 1,500, to the kamikaze mission. Twice that many, about 3,000, were held back for the inevitable Allied assault on the home islands, Easterly said.

Japan launched ten massive aerial attacks during the two-month-long Okinawa battle, nearly every one including hundreds of kamikaze planes. The first attack in "Operation Kikusui" was conducted from April 6 to April 11, 1945. In that week alone, 524 planes -- including 297 kamikaze -- attacked the Allied fleet. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) took a kamikaze hit on April 11, temporarily removing her from the battle. Another kamikaze hit on May 14 destroyed her forward elevator. The ship was heavily damaged and returned to the U.S. for repairs.

In the Battle of Okinawa, Japan launched 4,954 aircraft against Allied ships, 1,515 of which were kamikaze. The planes flew mostly from bases in southern Japan, but also in Korea and Formosa, now called Taiwan.

“How they came!” recalled a junior officer on a transport ship, according to one account, “in singles, twos and bunches, gliding, diving, swooping, some hugging the water…. It seemed they never stopped coming.”

“We prayed for bad weather, which was about the only thing that slowed down the stream of Japanese planes,” said another man in this account. 
The threat was countered by combat air patrols (CAPs), in which U.S. and U.K. fighters were vectored to Japanese planes by shipborne radar, and by guns aboard cruisers, destroyers and other vessels. Some 200 F4U Corsairs and 160 F6F Hellcats comprised the U.S. CAPs, while British Supermarine Seafire fighters performed the same mission. However, the most effective counter was the anti-aircraft fire from the many ships in the Allied fleet.

During the fight for the Philippines in October 1944, a "Big Blue Blanket" of Hellcats attacked Japanese airfields on the island of Luzon; the same tactic was used at Okinawa against kamikaze airfields in southern Japan and Formosa.

An American serviceman, assigned to the occupation of Japan immediately after the war, said years later that the devastation at the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Kanoya Air Base in Kyushu, southern Japan, was nearly complete. "Every hangar, every building was damaged or destroyed and all operational shops were moved away from the field and built into the hillsides."

Today, a museum at the restored base says it aims to tell “the actual situation of the war and the Japanese Special Attack Units, the transition and activities of the equipment of the modern Maritime Self-Defense Force. It is intended that the meaning of protecting Japan will be understood by clarifying such things.”

Several types of ship, including Atlanta-class light cruisers like the USS Oakland (CL-95) and USS San Diego (CL-53), complimented the CAPs during the Battle of Okinawa by providing seaborne defense.

A measure of the intensity of the battle was the experience of men aboard the destroyer USS Hugh W. Hadley (DD-774), Easterly said. On May 11, 1945, during the sixth massive Japanese aerial attack, 582 aircraft, including 133 kamikaze -- the Hadley, another destroyer, the USS Evans (DD-552), and four LCS gunboats -- were on radar picket duty northwest of Okinawa.

Over the next 95 minutes, Hadley and Evans were attacked by some 150 Japanese planes. Hadley took five hits, two by bombs and three by kamikazes. It was credited with shooting down 23 kamikazes, more than had been shot down in any other single engagement of the war, Easterly said. Twenty-eight crewmen were killed, 67 were wounded, and while the ship was severely damaged it stayed afloat.

Evans shot down many Japanese planes and took four kamikaze hits during the furious attack. Thirty-two of its sailors were killed and 27 were wounded; she too remained afloat. Both ships were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for high gallantry and achievement.

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
U.S. Navy Vet Donates Photo Album Covering His WWII Submarine Experiences Aboard the USS Segundo
U.S. Navy veteran Cecil Burner, 94, donated to the Museum a photo album covering his experiences as a submariner in World War II. Burner, who served aboard the USS Segundo 
(SS 398) in the Pacific, donated the album on July 30 following a presentation about the Battle of Okinawa.
Museum President and CEO Bill Klaers accepted the album to the applause of about 300 visitors who came to the Museum's WestPac hangar to hear the presentation.
"On behalf of the National Museum of World War II Aviation, Cecil, we're honored to be the custodians of this. It's huge. Thank you."
"Along with everyone in here, thank you for your service," Klaers said. “It's an honor to have you out here."
"This is a book that we recorded during the war of different crew members of our sub", Burner said. It has "pictures of all of our crewmembers, and the guys who were in during the war," he said.
Burner, who lives in Pueblo, Colo., faked his birth certificate and joined the Navy when he was only 15 years old. He was a Radioman 3rd Class on Segundo.
In an interview with the Museum staff, Burner described how the Segundo, among its other missions, served for a time performing rescue duty along the B-29 bomber flight path between bases in the Marianas and mainland Japan. He said Segundo performed three separate rescues of downed airmen just off the Japanese coast. The airmen were thrilled that the sub was able to pick them up.
He related some of his World War II experiences in a 2019 ceremony inducting him into a submariners' veterans club in Groton, Conn. "We captured the Japanese submarine I-401 and we took it" to Japan for Japan's surrender ceremony on September 2, 1945, he said.
"I was on radar duty" the night of August 29, 1945, when Segundo's radar detected I-401, Burner said. "I could not figure out what the devil it was, because we’d never seen anything like it before."
I-401 was one of a class of three Japanese subs, the largest in the world at the time. They were underwater aircraft carriers whose missions might have included surprise attacks on the Panama Canal. Each could carry three two-seat Aichi M6A1 "Serian" float-equipped torpedo bombers.
Japan had already surrendered, but there was some uncertainty aboard Segundo about I-401’s intentions. The American sub ordered the Japanese sub to surrender, which it did.
According to one account, "after several trips between the two submarines by their respective representatives, the Japanese agreed to accept a prize crew aboard.”

Story Credit: Rich Tuttle
An Unexpected Visit Leads to an Inspiring Experience
A summer trip filled with camping, hiking, and a visit to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs led Conner Hannon and his family to an unexpected hidden gem – The National Museum of World War II Aviation.

Hannon, who is 16 years old and from St. Louis, Missouri, has aspirations of joining the Air Force upon high school graduation, so his family planned a trip to Colorado to tour the Academy and partake in Colorado’s beautiful scenery. One afternoon they had some time to spare, and a quick Google search led them to the Museum. This turned out to be the pinnacle of Hannon’s entire trip.

“My dad saw [the Museum] on Google maps, and he said, ‘Hey that looks cool!’, so we went and it just shocked us. It was the highlight of my trip, because of how surprising it was to all of us. We had no idea it was there until we saw the advertisement. We were just there to kill some time, and it killed some time!” Hannon commented.

Conner spent over 2 hours roaming through the Museum and mentioned that there were still some exhibits he would love to come back and view another time. He appreciated the one-on-one time staff members spent talking with him, as well as their extensive knowledge about the workings of aircraft, World War II, the history behind certain planes, and more. When asked about his favorite part of the day, Hannon said, “the whole thing, especially the tour of the restoration hangar, because that was really cool.”

Hannon’s interest in aviation began at age 14, when he first got involved with a flight simulator community called Digital Combat. With about 5,000 hours under his belt, he has met some interesting friends along the way. A lot of the people he flies with were in the Gulf War, and they helped ignite his love of aviation history. The Museum was the perfect place for him to explore his interests and discover an even stronger passion for aviation.
“I’ve always loved history and studying it, and aviation became a big part of history around WWI. That’s what sparked my interest in it. I really learned a lot about the restoration process of aircraft, and granted they do planes from WWII, but it’s a similar sort of principle."

"The Museum was jam-packed with history, and that’s always important to learn if you’re getting into any field - it’s great to learn the history of it. I think that was a big benefit from visiting,” Hannon said.

As far as his future career in the Air Force, Hannon agreed that his visit to the Museum helped solidify his decision.

“I’ve had a lot of support from my family, so I haven’t wavered too much, but the Museum was just a great example of the aviation community coming together with history, so I definitely felt right at home when I was there,” Hannon commented.

While Conner would have jumped at the opportunity to explore the Museum for a few more hours, he was surprised his parents, who are not admittedly great aviation enthusiasts, enjoyed the Museum visit as much as he did.

“I was afraid my parents would get a little bored, but they said they loved it. They’d all go back again in a heartbeat!” Hannon said.

Conner hopes that with the Museum’s fundraising efforts, they’ll be able to expand and provide visitors with access to even more relics from WWII. He left the Museum feeling inspired, energetic about his future, and appreciative of all the hard work it took to get the Museum where it is at today. When asked if he’d come back and visit again, he answered, “Definitely yes. 100%.”

If you would like to contribute to the Museum’s fundraiser, please click on this link Donate Now - National Museum of World War II Aviation or mail a check to the National Museum of World War II Aviation at 775 Aviation Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80916.
Story Credit: Jill Mathieu
Photo Credit: Cari Hannon
The Battle of Paris
On August 25, 1944, Paris was liberated from the grip of German forces; Steve Pisanos was one of several Allied airmen on hand for the celebration.
The battle for Paris began on August 17. It started with an uprising of the French underground and ended when the Germans surrendered the city to the Allies eight days later.
The liberation was a complex series of events involving the French underground, the U.S. 3rd Army, and Free French forces. The Allies wanted to bypass the city and continue the attack on retreating German forces, but French General Charles De Gaulle prevailed on the Allies to liberate the city. The German commander of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, was under orders from Hitler to destroy Paris; to his credit, he ignored those orders and instead arranged a surrender.

General Phillipe Leclerc's French division paraded down the Champs-Élysées on August 26. On August 29, the U.S. Army's 28th Infantry Division paraded to the Arc de Triomphe, then down the Champs Élysées. Joyous crowds greeted the Americans as men and vehicles paraded through Paris. What Parisians didn’t know was that the division continued directly through the city to attack German positions northeast of the French capital.

On hand for the celebrations was P-51 Mustang pilot and double ace Steve Pisanos of the 4th Fighter Group, whose lifetime of flying accomplishments are on display at the Museum. Pisanos was escorting bombers on March 5, 1944, when he downed two German Bf-109s and damaged two more. On his way home his engine failed near Le Havre. Steve rode the P-51 down, kneeling outside the cockpit and on the wing during the power-off crash; he survived and eventually was able to join the French underground. He was moved to Paris where he was involved in several clandestine combat operations while awaiting an attempt to reach England.

The plan changed on June 6, 1944, when the Allies landed in Normandy. On August 23 Pisanos hooked up with advancing U.S. forces outside the city. Two days later Pisanos joined the U.S. troops entering Paris to the wild and happy greetings of Parisians. On the 27th he was flown to England.

Walking the Champs Élysées today, one can see in the mind’s eye the German occupiers marching at the Arc de Triomphe when France surrendered on June 14, 1940, as well as the joyous parades over the same pavement when Paris was liberated in August 1944.

Story Credit: Gene Pfeffer
American Volunteer Wilson V. "Bill" Edwards
Californian Wilson V. "Bill" Edwards was an American volunteer with 133 (Eagle) Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF) before the United States’ entry in WWII. He flew convoy escort duty from Northern Ireland and delivered British aircraft to and from operational units. Edwards flew 37 combat operations with 133 Squadron.

In September 1942, then-Lieutenant Edwards transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) along with many other Eagle pilots. In June 1944, Major Edwards was assigned with many Eagle comrades to the 4th Fighter Group flying P-51Ds escorting bombers on missions deep into Germany. He became the commander of the 336th Fighter Squadron.

During an escort mission to Munich on July 13th, 1944, his P-51 was hit by German anti-aircraft fire; he parachuted to safety but was captured by German forces. Edwards spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War at Stalag Luft I near Barth, about 100 miles northwest of Berlin.

Among the museum’s collection of artifacts from the Battle of Britain and the American-manned Eagle Squadrons, we are proud to display signed artwork and memorabilia from Bill Edwards.
Take a close look at Edwards' hastily made arm band which says "American" in Russian -- Американец. It helped Russian troops identify whom they were facing as they liberated Stalag Luft I on May 2nd, 1945. The camp held some 9,000 prisoners at that time, 1,700 Americans and 1,400 from Britain and Canada, The war ended six days later.

Story Credit: Gene Pfeffer
Special Event -- Saturday, September 3rd
Operation Downfall: The Invasion of Japan that Didn't Happen
It would have dwarfed any previous sea-land military operation; hear what it was, why it was canceled, and then head out to the tarmac to watch a demonstration flight of our Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat fighter!

It was early 1945 and the United States had endured the war for over three years. How could we finally end the seemingly endless national sacrifices and return to a time of previous worldwide peace and normality at home?

Germany had unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces. The United States and its allies then turned their combined attention and resources to end the war in the Pacific Theater against Imperial Japan. To ultimately obtain a Japanese unconditional surrender, the U.S. approved the commencement of planning for what seemed to be the extremely daunting task of a full invasion of the Japanese homeland.

This invasion would have dwarfed any previous sea-land military operation, including the Allies’ Normandy Invasion of 1944. Airpower was a key component to these plans. Predictions of overall American and Japanese casualties far exceeded any military operations to that date. Credible estimates indicated at least 500,000 Allied casualties and a million Japanese casualties.

On Saturday, September 3, the National Museum of World War II Aviation will present “Operation Downfall: The Planned Invasion of Japan." Museum docent Johnny Drury, a U.S. Air Force combat veteran, will discuss the related military history leading up to the Allies’ planned 1945 showdown, the plans for Operation Downfall to include the key aspects of air power for the operation, and historical event(s) that eventually superseded the final need for Operation Downfall.

Our event is open to all Museum Members and daily guests and will highlight the Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat aircraft, which was planned to have a significant role during Operation Downfall. It was designed and produced late in the war to specifically address challenges of Navy and Marine Pacific Theater air operations. The Marine Corps in particular liked the Tigercat's firepower, which included four 20mm cannons and four .50 cal. machine guns. Two squadrons of Marine F7Fs were in training when Japan surrendered.

Want to learn more about the F7F? Go to Grumman F7F Tigercat - National Museum of World War II Aviation.

Weather permitting, the event will conclude with Museum’s Tigercat engine start-up, taxi, take-off, and multiple flybys -- a great photo opportunity and a chance to see this icon of U.S. WWII history in the air!

8:00 am Doors Open
9:30 am "Operation Downfall: The Invasion of Japan that Didn't Happen," presented by Air Force combat veteran and docent Johnny Drury. He'll tell how it would have dwarfed any previous sea-land military operation, and why it was canceled.
10:15 am Walk-Around, Start-Up, Taxi and Flight of F7F-3N (Weather Permitting)

Standard admission prices are in effect; the presentation and F7F-3N demonstration flight are included with standard admission! The purchase of advance on-line tickets is encouraged.

Ticket prices are:

Adult $15
Child (4-12) $11
Senior and Military $13
WWII Veterans are Always FREE
Children 3 and Under are FREE
Parking is always FREE
Museum Members: Included in Membership, call 719-637-7559 to reserve tickets

For advance ticket purchase, go to Tickets - National Museum of World War II Aviation

Join us!
The Airshow is Coming! The Airshow is Coming!
Mark the weekend of September 24 & 25 on your calendars as the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow comes back to town! We're expecting a phenomenal event with more than 25,000 visitors stopping in to see 50+ aircraft on display, with many of those taking to the air for fly-bys and performances!

Do you like World War II aircraft? Silly question!

We'll literally have parades of fighters (Republic P-47D-40 Thunderbolt (2), North American P-51D Mustang, Brewster F3A-1 Corsair, General Motors FM-2 Wildcat, Grumman F7F-3N Tigercat (2), and Grumman F3F-2 Flying Barrel) and bombers (Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, North American B-25J Mitchell, General Motors TBM Avenger (2), Douglas SBD Dauntless, Consolidated PBY Catalina, Douglas AD-5/A1-E Skyraider) making low passes.

How about aerobatics? If you've ever wanted to see a pilot take a Corsair or Tigercat through its paces, this is the airshow for you!

Have you ever wondered about those C-130's with red numbers on them flying over town? Come see exactly what they do as the 302nd Reserve Group performs a Water Drop demonstration from one of their Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) aircraft.

Maybe you like modern jet aircraft as well? Both the United States Air Force and the United States Navy will be well represented, with the USAF F-35A Lightning II and USN EA-18G Growler Demonstration teams pushing their aircraft fast, loud and low for the crowds!

Or maybe you love both WWII and modern? Then you absolutely won't to miss our TWO legacy flights, as the museum's own P-38 Lightning White 33 flies side-by-side with its successor the F-35A Lightning II, while our F7F-3N Tigercat gets into formation with the EA-18G Growler.

Helicopters? We've got helicopters, with the US Army bringing by an AH-64 Apache, a C-47 Chinook, and a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk!

We've even got something special for all you space geeks, the only flying Super Guppy in the world! Used to carry oversized cargo like rocket bodies, this NASA aircraft is truly a sight to behold. Near as we can figure, it uses whatever weird aerodynamics that a big fat bumblebee uses to stay aloft!

The lineup is constantly being updated; we currently have 53 different aircraft scheduled to appear! Check back often at

Below is a sneak peak of only some of the aircraft that will be there; join us at the airshow to see them all!
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This Month's Newsletter Contributors

Gene Pfeffer
Historian & Curator
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
Docent, Newsletter Writer, Social Media Writer, Photographer

George White
Newsletter Editor, Social Media Writer, Photographer