Making History Project
"Preserving Veterans' Stories"
501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization

Veterans Oral History Interviews

Good Times at Fort Bragg

508 PIR Jump

I have just returned from the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment reunion at Fort Bragg. What a fantastic trip! We had such a great turnout with Veterans from all the conflicts including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, and Panama. Since this is the home of the 82nd Airborne, the participation from active duty soldiers was off the charts as well. The Family & Friends of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment outdid themselves with this fantastic event. Special thanks go out to Lou, Rock, Donna, Troy, Ellen, and Gene for all their help putting this together and making sure it ran smoothly.

Reunion Events

CSM Donaldson and DunnThe reunion lasted four days and there were some notable events. First, we started off by visiting the General Lee Museum in Dunn, North Carolina. General Lee was the “father” of the airborne and his home was converted into a very nice museum. Next, we were able to watch active-duty soldiers do a parachute jump in Fort Bragg on the anniversary of the 82nd Airborne’s birth. We had lunch on base with the active-duty soldiers and then toured the 82nd Airborne Museum. That night we had a social and happy hour honoring all active duty soldiers which was well attended. The following day we visited the Special Forces Museum, which detailed the campaigns of the special forces from World War II through the present. All were delighted to have Rock Merritt lead us on a personal tour. The reunion ended with a formal banquet honoring all members, past and present, of the 508 P.I.R. and the family and friends of the 508 P.I.R.

New and Old Friends

MHP ProjectAs for me personally, I met some new great friends including Don McCallister, CSM Ret., a recently retired member of the 508 P.I.R. who is now dedicated to helping wounded warriors through the Independence Fund (more about that later). Likewise, there was Jim Strickland (Vietnam), Robert Cheeseman (Panama), Claud Dunn (Vietnam), Phil Cronin (Vietnam), Carl Porter (WWII), John Coates (WWII), and all those active-duty guys including Aaron, Alexander, Hank, Brandyn, Jarvis, and Brandon. Likewise, seeing old friends like Gene, Rock, George, Ernie, Burt, and Tino was awesome as well. Thankfully, in the limited free time that I had, there was still a way to work in three oral history interviews for World War II, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Neat Stuff

One of the coolest gifts that I have ever received was a small piece of the last ISIS flag flying over Mosul before it was liberated. CSM Donaldson from the 508 P.I.R., 82nd Airborne gave that to me in my hand as he was there in July during that historic moment. I was also lucky enough to win a silent auction for the 508 P.I.R. flag that Lt. Col. Browning carried with him as he jumped on the anniversary of the birth of the 82nd Airborne. All paratroopers that jumped that day signed the flag (see below), how cool is that?

508 Flag from October 20 Jump

 

Veteran Oral History Interview: Vietnam War Veteran Norman Gaddis

US Army Air Force/USAF Pilot and POW

Veteran Oral History Interview of Norman Gaddis

Veteran oral history interview for Vietnam War Veteran Norman Gaddis is now available.

Patrick Russell conducted this interview on June 5, 2014, at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France during the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. This was a challenging interview to handle in that it was conducted in the public spaces of the Visitor Center at Omaha Beach. Since it was not a controlled environment, you will hear background noises of other visitors. However, when given the opportunity to conduct an interview, you do what you can do.

Norman Gaddis is an American pilot who was born in Tennessee. Norman served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II from 1942-1945. Norman received his final pilot training just before the end of World War II and as a result, he flew no combat missions during the war. After World War II, Norman was recalled as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force in 1949 and he ended up providing fighter escort for the supplies being delivered during the Berlin airlift. In 1967, Norman was shot down over Hanoi and became a POW for the entire duration of the Vietnam War. Norman Gaddis was released as a POW in 1973 and eventually retired from the Air Force in 1976 as a Brigadier General.

During this short interview, Norman discusses the details for how he was shot down in Vietnam and the cruel treatment and torture he received as a POW. Altogether, Norman spent 1004 days in solitary confinement and a total of 2,124 days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

 

2017 Reunion for 508 P.I.R.

508 PIRVeteran Reunions

The Making History Project will be attending another Veteran reunion, the 2017 Reunion of the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment. The Making History Project is attending the reunion to support members of the “Greatest Generation” and provide encouragement to active duty paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne. This will be another occasion to visit with old friends, make new friends, and hopefully conduct a few more oral history interviews.

Fort Bragg

The 2017 Reunion for the 508 Parachute Infantry Regiment will take place this year on October 19, 2017, through October 21, 2017. The Reunion is being hosted in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. This year represents the 75th Anniversary of the activation of the 508 P.I.R.

Fury from the Sky

FuryActive duty soldiers of the 508 P.I.R. will participate once again this year with the past generations of paratroopers from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and other conflicts. As a special treat, the group will spend a day touring Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne Museum. For more information on the Reunion, to join the Family & Friends of the 508 P.I.R., or to purchase tickets for the Reunion, please visit the 2017 508 P.I.R. Reunion page.