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Marine Corps Aviations celebrates nearly a century of progress

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  • Marine Corps Aviations celebrates nearly a century of progress

    May 22, 2009 - 6:23 PM

    More than 200 Marines gathered at Warrior Day Friday. Even more were there in spirit.

    New River Air Station hosted Warrior Day in honor of the 97th anniversary of Marine Corps Aviation, where aircraft of today and yesterday was displayed on the flight line. The V-22 Osprey, CH-53 Sea Stallion, CH-46 Sea Knight, C-12 Huron, AH-1 Cobra, UH-1 Huey, F-4U Corsair and North American B-25 Mitchell were among them.

    Retired Brig. Gen. George Bartlett remembers the B-25 well - it took him to Japan during World War II. Now, he joins the Panchito - which is a duplicate of its namesake B-25 that ran 10 missions from Japan to China - for air shows and special events.

    The original that took Bartlett's five-man crew on missions was painted blue, he said, "so if you looked down over the water, you couldn't see anything, and if you looked up, you couldn't see anything."

    "Really, it was a great airplane, but it wasn't very big," Bartlett said of the bomber with three seats in the cockpit and room for two gunners in the tail.

    The aircraft was part of the Doolittle Raid on Japan in April 1942.

    "We bombed them on a daily basis -morning, noon and night," he said.

    While only eight of the original raiders are still alive, most of the original 80 signed a 500-pound bomb that remains aboard the Panchito.

    Aircraft are making a difference in Iraq, Afghanistan and the horn of Africa, Maj. Gen. James. F. Flock, commander of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said.

    "While you're doing all this, you're also the centerpiece of the Marine Corps," he told the Marines gathered at Warrior Day.

    While today's airmen have the benefit of night goggles and GPS that their predecessors, like Bartlett, didn't have, the mission has remained the same, said Col. Darrell Thacker, commanding officer of New River Air Station. The aircraft support overseas missions and get troops to and from missions quickly.

    The Marine Corps' aircraft has come "a long way," said Cpl. Christopher Delatte, who works with the VMM-162 airframes division.

    "Aircraft (serves) its purpose - troop training support," he said. "(The VMM-162) does its job and it does it better than any other aircraft in the world."

    Contact military reporter Amanda Hickey at 910-219-8461 or Visit the Lejeune Deployed blog at