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Loss of our legends: Two Fighting 49ers join the H

Jul 26, 2005

By: MSgt Greg Henneman
49th FW Historian

As members of the US Armed Forces, we face a sad
inevitability that our World War II generation is quickly
passing. Each day, more than 1,000 World War II veterans
die, leaving behind the memory of their service and a
stronger nation built upon the hard fought principles of
liberty and freedom.

It is impossible to comprehend the daily loss of 1,000
veterans. Each person had their own unique experiences and
stories. While many accounts have been permanently recorded
through interviews, books, and films, most have passed
quietly into history, with the results of their service
speaking for itself.

However, the 49th Fighter Wing has recently lost two of its
founders and dearest friends, who epitomized our early
history: Col (Ret) Walter Dorrer and Capt Fred Dick. Both
men not only served heroically in war-time, but remained
active members of the 49th Fighter Group Association, which
has now placed their names upon a list of those who have
passed away--known as the Honor Roll.

Captain Frederick E. Dick joined the 7th Fighter Squadron
on December 19, 1943 and flew with the squadron until March
14, 1945. Completing 210 combat missions, Captain Dick flew
his single-seat fighter in skip-bombing, dive-bombing,
intercept, patrol, escort, and strafing missions across the
South Pacific.

On March 6, 1945, Captain Dick led a formation of 7th
Fighter Squadron P-38s during a B-25 escort mission to
Hainan Island in the South China Sea. As the Lightnings
reached the target area, they encountered 15 to 20 Japanese
Zero fighters. The P-38s not only protected the allied
bombers, but Captain Dick immediately shot down one of the
enemy fighters. This marked Captain Dick’s fifth confirmed
aerial victory—earning him the title of ace. In fact,
Captain Dick became the last Fighting 49er to achieve ace
status.

After World War II, most units in the US Army Air Forces
inactivated. In the history of our nation, we never kept a
large standing military force in peacetime--until the Cold
War. Yet, the 49th Fighter Wing remained in service as an
occupational force in Japan and Walter Dorrer served as an
important part of that effort.

In World War II, Colonel Dorrer had been injured by a .50
caliber machine gun bullet. Despite his World War II
service and injuries, he volunteered to remain in the Army
Air Forces and then the newly created Air Force. From
October 1946 to February 1947, Dorrer flew P-51Ds with the
7th Fighter Squadron at Chitose, Japan, patrolling for
illegal shipping, and serving as the squadron’s safety
officer. Dorrer recalled the harsh conditions at Chitose,
“Because of being so far north, on Hokkaido, the winds blow
down out of Siberia; the winters at Chitose were especially
long and cold. I recall snow flurries as early as
mid-October and a total accumulation of over 12 feet during
the winter.”

As the Korean War began, Dorrer was assigned to fix
management problems in the 49th Motor Vehicle Squadron
(later 49th Transportation Squadron). During his year of
service, he revamped the motor pool, turning it into a
squadron able to support the heavy demands of the Korean
War. Remembering the endless hard work put into the war,
Dorrer wrote, “I was part of our rear echelon to support
our 49th Fighter Group in Korea. We were working about 12
to 14 hours a day. During this critical time period some of
the guys didn’t get to bed at all for two or three days at
a time.”

Returning to the air in 1951, Dorrer flew transport
aircraft, often providing aid to surrounded Allied units
deep inside enemy territory. During the Korean War, he flew
134 combat missions. Marking his third combat tour, Colonel
Dorrer served as the Seventh Air Force’s Director of
Logistics Plans during the Vietnam War.

As well as seeing three decades of combat, Colonel Dorrer
served as the logistics officer for Air Force One. Through
this role, he provided air transport for Presidents Harry
S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and
Lyndon B. Johnson.

During their military service and in civilian life, Colonel
Dorrer and Captain Dick exemplified selflessness and honor.
They are not unknown faces in black-and-white photographs.
Rather, they are part of our Fighting 49er family. They
created the heritage that we stand on and laid the
foundations of service and sacrifice which now falls upon
our shoulders. May they never be forgotten.

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