- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2005

Flying Colts

Some 145 surviving members of the Flying Colts, joining thousands of other aging veterans from across the United States, have flown into Washington for this evening’s 60th anniversary commemoration of World War II on the Mall. Japan signed the surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945.

“The name ‘Flying Colt’ was taken from a comment, reportedly attributed to the movie actor Andy Devine, a good friend of our group commander, Col. Thomas W. Steed,” says retired Air Force Col. Robert S. Capps, a resident of Alexandria who has published a detailed diary and history of the 456th Bombardment Group (Heavy) 15th Air Force, titled “Flying Colt: Liberator Pilot in Italy.”

“When he saw some of the crews arriving, Andy Devine told Colonel Steed, ‘Here come your Colts.’ Someone … picked up the name ‘Colonel Steed’s Flying Colts,’ and the name stuck,” says Col. Capps.

He recalls that Nazi Germany sought to prevent a D-Day invasion by dominating the skies over Europe. Against tremendous odds, the 456th Bomb Group of B-24s arrived in Italy in January 1944 to confront the enemy.

“The road to Italy started, for most of us, soon after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor,” Col. Capps notes. “An estimated 85 percent of the members of the 456th … that I flew with in Italy had no prior military experience, nor had they ever been in an airplane.”

Tragically, the 456th “lost 58 of its 62 assigned aircraft from all causes, including in gigantic air battles, during its first six months,” he says. Nevertheless, the Flying Colts were able to shoot down no fewer than 130 enemy aircraft — perhaps as many as 185. But the toll on American pilots was heavy.

“For the rest of the war … the 456th lost another 45 of its 62 assigned planes from anti-aircraft guns on the ground and other causes,” Col. Capps says, but when the smoke cleared “the 456th Bomb Group helped gain air superiority, making D-Day possible.”

Earlier this week, the Flying Colts laid a wreath at the National World War II Memorial. Tomorrow evening, 144 members of its surviving members will gather for a reunion banquet. To honor the heroes, active duty members of George Washington’s Old Guard Soldiers, the 3rd Infantry from Fort Myer, will present the colors.

Time to pray

Given the ongoing war in Iraq, and now Hurricane Katrina, the Christian Coalition of America says there was no better time than this week for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis to decide to continue its practice of saying grace before lunch.

“The Air Force Academy’s decision to discourage public prayer is a wrong decision,” says coalition Vice President Jim Backlin, a West Point grad, who is calling on Congress to step in and pass a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, and Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam Democrat, that would ensure voluntary, nondenominational prayers at the nation’s military service academies.

The Naval Academy is the only one that holds formal prayers at lunch, offered each day by Navy chaplains. The practice dates to its founding in 1845.

The little things

On the heels of the black leadership group Project 21 throwing its support behind Judge John G. Roberts Jr., the National Black Republican Association is announcing that it backs President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee because of his civil rights record.

“The facts demonstrate Judge Roberts’ long history of being a civil rights advocate,” explains NBRA official Don Scoggins.

While a practicing lawyer, the NBRA notes, Judge Roberts, without compensation, argued a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit on behalf of welfare recipients who challenged a termination of benefits; participated in a program sponsored by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs to help prepare first-year law students from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds; and supported moot court competitions sponsored by the Black Law Students’ Association.

Free lunch

Obviously, that was not renowned Washington chef Jeff Tunks pictured in yesterday’s column. In fact, we’re not sure who the chef is in the photograph that accidentally appeared. Our apologies to Mr. Tunks.

Meanwhile, if anybody can correctly identify the mystery chef, we’ll by them lunch wherever he cooks — so long as it’s in this city or suburbs.

Katrina

There are times in our lives to restart,

Times when everything comes apart:

Do you know what it means

To miss New Orleans

When that’s where you left your heart?

F.R. Duplantier

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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