SW Aviator Magazine - August/September 1999 issue
Thanks for the Memories
Confederate Air Force Oral History Program
by Harry Elegreet
History is wonderful. It can vindicate people who, wrongly defamed, turn out to have astute foresight. It can also force individuals who made bad miscalculations to feast on humble pie. History students recall the day Neville Chamberlain stepped off a plane holding a document signed by himself and Adolph Hitler and proclaimed, "Peace in our time." A year later, we had total war.

A bunch of terrible years after that, the great aircraft armada—so instrumental in winning that war—was being recklessly gobbled up by the smelters. A group of Texans scurried to save this aviation heritage, and from their effort grew the Confederate Air Force and its highly successful aircraft preservation program.

America's Greatest Asset Overlooked
There was even a greater asset from that time, and it too was being overlooked. In fact, this asset was overlooked for over 40 years—until 1988. This was the living heritage itself: the people who built, supported and flew this historic aerial armada. There were about six million men and women in the military working with aircraft, and another 10 million people participated in the design, production and delivery of the 300,000 planes built between 1939 and 1945.

Soon this species will be extinct. Like their aircraft, these people are going to the big smelter below or the great hangar above—and taking our heritage with them. And as with the aircraft, the Confederate Air Force is doing something about it with their Oral History Program.

The CAF is attempting to interview every living person who was relevantly involved in the aerial effort during 1939-45. These taped interviews are being transcribed and referenced into what is probably the largest existing bank of this information. Already, historians and researchers are looking to the CAF as a primary informational source.

This program may well be the CAF's most important, most lasting achievement...and it may well be that your voice will carry more weight than Neville Chamberlain's. If you have personal experiences of that era—or know someone who does—please contact the CAF Albuquerque Lobo Wing's Clay Keen at 505-242-6398.

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