Flying Yankee history—in the making...

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sadie Hewes, story and photos
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
The Connecticut Air National Guard's Flying Yankees are well into their 93rd year and the 103rd Heritage Collection located in the unit's operations building has acquired an extensive compilation of photographs and artifacts. Recently, Maj. D. Elliotte Draegor, historian and director of inspections, assembled a display in the wing's headquarters building outside of the dining facility. The display is comprised of various artifacts and stories she has come across in her research and it certainly catches your eye, telling the story of Gen. George P. Kane, the first person to enlist in the 118th Observation Squadron.
     Along with background on Gen. Kane, donated items include his personal flight goggles, caps, and scarf. Next, the display brings you back to 1944 when the 118th was assigned under the command of Maj. Edward McComas to fly across the Himalayas and assist their Chinese allies in the fight against Japanese invasion. In this section, photographs of several WWII veterans, including Maj. McComas himself, are available to see. Centered in the cases are information, photographs and articles about the unit's involvement in both the Cold and Korean Wars. Included are several model planes and a green dress uniform that was worn by troops when the 118th was still a part of the U.S. Army. Finally, the display highlights the transition from being part of the Army to the Air Force, as well as the move from Bradley Air Field to Bradley Air National Guard base in 1980. From more recent history, the display chronicles the base's involvement in the Iraq War and even displays one of Col. Fred Miclon's first enlisted utility uniforms.
     In an interview with Maj. Draegor, she noted that she would be happy to accept photographs or artifacts from any active or retired unit members. Photos can be scanned, digitized and returned if you wish to keep them. Along with this, she hopes to have a case with artifacts rotated through it so if you are in possession of something you'd like to have on display but wish to keep, it can be put into the case and then given back to you once the case is disassembled. Maj. Draegor also would like to encourage any "old timers" who have declassified stories to add to the base history to come share them with her on Old Timers' Day in June.
     Another interesting project that she has been working on over the past two years is acquiring a piece of the original Charter Oak to be put on display in tribute to the Flying Yankee himself, Capt. Joseph Wadsworth, who is depicted on the unit patch running to put the charter in the oak tree. When the piece of the famous Connecticut Oak is in the unit's possession, it will be on display in the airlift squadron's operations building.
     Chronicling the base has been an extensive job so far. Col. Miclon has spent an abundance of time researching and writing down the entire history of the unit. Along with this, Maj. Draegor has worked to digitize and identify the people in thousands of photographs in the collection. With the Flying Yankee's 100th birthday approaching in just seven years, the two of them hope to create a commemorative book of the history of the 103rd for publication. Along with the base history, there is an initiative out of Hartford to collect information and oral history from Iraq War Veterans. If you have any questions pertaining to the display, the Hartford Iraq War initiative or Old Timers' Day, Maj. Draegor can be contacted at The next time you find yourself waiting in that long line for lunch, don't forget to take a look at the display and learn about the history of your wing!