SAN ANTONIO, TX – When it comes to firsthand memories of World War II, Gene Jensen can muster only fuzzy images. He was still a young child when the United States and its allies declared victory.
“My first and only memories are the soldiers coming home at the end of the war,” he said recently.
Still, he has made it his mission to make sure others know all about that era, as well as some of the aircraft that made significant contributions toward that victory.
Jensen, a Korean War veteran and former B52 bombardier, is president of the Alamo Liaison Squadron, a group of flying enthusiasts who have an equally enthusiastic interest in that period in U. S. history. With the use of restored combat planes, they share their knowledge of WWII.
"What we're trying to do is preserve the story. This is the story about the little bitty guy that really never got told,” Jensen said.
"(These planes) did the simple tasks, looking over the hills, directing artillery fire, dropping supplies," he said.
Although the mission of the planes may be different now, the group’s goal is to restore them as close to their original state as possible. They’re painted with some of the same stars, bars and other symbols that would’ve adorned them more than 70 years ago.
“This was an observer airplane for field artillery, this type of airplane, for spotting and directing field artillery," said Baylor Randle, showing off his bright blue and yellow Taylorcraft L2. “It was built in 1943.”
Randle and the other licensed pilots form the movable part of a museum located at Cannon Field, along Loop 1604’s southwestern side. They not only display their aircraft at schools and air shows, but keep them in working condition, performing flyovers at parades and funerals.
"And when they call upon us to do it, we particularly like to do the services for veterans when they're buried at Ft. Sam," Randle said.
What Jesse Bonilla enjoys most is the reaction he often gets from his younger audience, school children.
"I love to sit them and have them work with the controls, just get the feel of it,” Bonilla said. “It's so exciting just to see their faces."
"I want the younger generation to know, to learn what actually took place during the war," he said.
Jensen agrees, saying that the sacrifices service members made in the past can be used as a guide in the present and future.
"If they understand the history here and how diligently these people served, in rather really simple ways,” Jensen said, “then service, even sacrifice is a positive human experience.”
For more information on the Alamo Liaison Squadron and its mission, click here.