The following was received from
and is an account of the 50th Anniversary Reunion by Pierre-Paul Struye. It was
such a pleasure to have Pierre-Paul, Jo Golvan, and Arne Just representing the
MDAP members of 53-Fox.
Thanks so much for coming! ...
I send you hereunder the article I wrote for the French APNFA and
Belgian Silver Wings association. They will publish it in their
Again thanks for that superb reunion. The banquet in the middle of the Air
Museum is unforgettable !
Could you send me the address of John, who was in charge of the speakers ?
The 50th anniversary of class 53 Fox
Pierre-Paul Struye and Jo Golvan represented the Silver Wings and
APNFA at the big reunion held in Wright Patterson Air Force base, Dayton,
Ohio, USA, 16-19 October 2003
Our American friends of
class 53 Fox have organised a big reunion for all pilots of the class, on the
grounds of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, from 16 to 19 October
We were three Europeans to attend the meeting : a Dane, Arne Just, leaving in
a French, Jo Golvan, member of the APNFA (Association du Personnel navigant
formé en Amérique) and a Belgian, Pierre-Paul (Pipo) Struye, leaving in
France, member of the "Silver Wings".
We were hundred fifty, with our wives, and it was moving to meet again old
friends from fifty years ago. By chance the three Europeans were from the same
Primary base : Bartow. Two Americans from Bartow were also present : Rudy
D’Urbano and Smitthy Harris. Smitty made great impression to all of us He had
been POW (prisoner of war) in Vietnam during eight years ! He told us how he
could psychologically survive imprisoned alone in a cell, by communicating with
the other prisoners by knocking on the walls according to some prisoners code.
Although he suffered torture, he did not keep resentment or hate against the
Viets. He said how much he now appreciates the freedom and his family.
The first evening, a banquet took place in a unique place : the tables were
dressed in the middle of the Air Force museum, around dozens of airplanes We
were assembled by Primary bases. We noticed a table dressed for only one person
remaining empty : it was the table in memory of the deceased of the class.
General pilot Adams, from 53 Fox, was the speaker at the banquet He explained
how the USA and Nato allies have been able to contain the soviet imperialism by
building an extraordinary defence which has been very expensive.. We have been
able to see some evidences of that military effort walking trough the Air Force
museum (the biggest in the world, of course), where hundreds of planes are
exposed, going from the small photographic airplanes without pilots till the
large B-52 and other giant planes. Some of these planes were only prototypes ,
others have been build by thousands. Very impressive and remarkably presented
(the Americans have money, but they know how to use it).
The next days a "memorial service" is celebrated in memory of all dead
comrades of class 53 Fox, whose names are called on, and a marber « bench »
engraved «USAF PILOT TRAINING CLASS 53-F, dedicated 17 October 2003 » is
offered to the Air Museum.
The last evening, the farewell banquet took place at the Officers Club at the
end of wich some people addressed the assembly. Jo Golvan and Pierre-Paul (Pipo)
Struye were called in front and Pipo made the following speach :
"When we, foreign students from
Europe came in America, it was the
fisrt time that we flew over the Atlantic ocean, and we were eager to discover
the United States.
We still had the memory of the war , of the GI's who came to liberate us from
the German occupation, of the pilots of the Army Air Force who flew and fought,
together with the Royal Air Force, in the skies of Europe. For many of us, it is
from these days that our will to become pilots started...
The first discovery of the USAF training program was tough : the Pre-Flight
wherein we were just "nothing", as our upperclassmen were so happy to tell us..
It was hard : wake up at 4.30 AM, PT, ground courses,... but it did not last
long, after a few weeks, we were on the flight-line and started flying the
yellow bird, the T6.
Everything changed at once : the sky was blue, the instructors friendly, the T6
impressive but quickly tamed. Our English improved. In the barracks we were
mixed with US cadets, so we quickly made friends. We discover that they were
different from us in many aspects, but we also noticed differences between them
: a Yankee spoke differently than a Rebel, a Middle West guy did not look like
an East coast fellow..., but they were all Americans, and together -they and us-
were all allies in the NATO. Together we learned the brotherhood of flying men.
After Primary, we went to Advance training and there we discovered the jet, the
I remember our squadron commander in James Connally AFB, Waco, Texas, captain
Holloway, opening the session, telling us enthusiastically : "You'll see boys,
flying jet is better than sex..!".
Well, this statement might remain object of discussion, but I shall not submit
the question to vote tonight...
The T33 was marvelous and so easy to fly that we've got our wings with no sweat.
How proud we were when receiving our silver wings !
Next was the gunnery in Williams and Luke : so exciting ! Flying our F84G
Thunderjets and firing air to air on these targets towed by courageous twin
engine pilots, or air to ground on old trucks scattered in the Arizona desert.
Then we left back to our various countries after 18 months training in the US,
to rejoin our own Belgian or French Air Forces.
Remembering all this, we are very thankful to America for having training us and
I want to take this occasion to tell you that "old Europe", as your secretary of
defence named us, is and will remain America's friend. We like
Nevertheless good friends may have different opinions on various problems, but
they remain good friends. We have common values. We remember the GI's fighting
to liberate France and Belgium in World War II, as you remember Lafayette coming
to fight with you for your independence 200 years ago.
God bless America
and Europe !"
Pipo called then Don
Condra, the president of the 53F reunion to come in front of the assembly. To
thank him for having organised that wonderful reunion, Jo Golvan presented him
the badge of the APNFA and Pipo the badge of the Silver Wings.
This gesture of sympathy received a large applause from all the American