by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/1/2015 - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. -- Sitting
in a wheelchair with airplanes on his shirt and a U.S. Army Air Corp
hat on his head, 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
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 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
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,"