Phil Newman of the U.S. Air Corps represents the veteran group the Decrepit Birdmen at the Ocala International Airport.
...Phil Newman of the United States Army Air Corps wrestles with covered surfaces upon which rest the materials of his life's dedication.Newman
is one of the 21,000 veterans in Alachua County, and though he
served more than half a century ago, his
goal is to keep alive the spirit of the men and women who fought for freedom.Newman
uses these materials — maps, model planes, cassettes and manuscripts — to educate people about World War II.He coordinates high school chats; at air shows, he is a spokesman for the veterans' group the Decrepit Birdmen.Newman
also helped start a collection of recorded interviews with World War II veterans, a project he
began in 1994.
search, unfolding a laminated tri-fold map.It is of the United States, but there is nothing American about it: the Japanese flag is centered with the Italian flag covering the western U.S. and the German flag, the east.He
said this is what our country would have looked like had the Axis powers won.
...Newman was born in March of 1923.
"It was a good year for strawberries and things," he
lived down the street from Aurelia, whom he
dated all four years in high school.But in 1941, this C-student from Greensboro, North Carolina, jumped ship.Newman
went north and Aurelia moved to Georgia for college.
had a deferment, and his
friends had begged him to stay, but duty called.
"It's about freedom.You hardly hear anyone mention that word today," he
became one of the 190,000 pilots trained during World War II.From 1942 to 1945, it was his
job as lead pilot to guide B-17s on missions over eight countries.He
was stationed in Foggia, Italy, and flew to France, Germany, the former Czechoslovakia, the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary and Poland.
"The weather had to be real bad for us not to go," he
Somewhere between 25- and 30,000 feet, Newman
job was to destroy the enemies' ability to make war.He
crew destroyed oil refineries, tank factories, tunnels, bridges — anything to disrupt the flow of military traffic.
"Looking down, you didn't know if you were going to kill somebody.You didn't care , People ask me, ,How does it feel to kill somebody?' I don't know," he
remembers the Tuskegee Airmen who flew fighter cover for his
team would otherwise have flown solo over Germany for 600 miles out of Foggia.
"They flew flight cover every mission we went and they never lost a bomber," he
After the war, Newman
moved to Raleigh, N.C., where he
took a communications job, married his
first wife, Blanche, and had two children.Some 50 years later in 1994, he founded the Combat Airmen, and the group began searching for other veterans.
In about 90 tape-recorded interviews called "Reminiscences of World War II," they have documented the personal accounts of Americans who served in the war.They began storing the tapes in archives in Raleigh, N.C., but soon they placed them in high schools and public and community college libraries.The University of Florida
has since taken the tapes and transcribed them, and they are available as part of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program.
After 59 years of marriage, Blanche passed away and in 2004 Newman
moved to Gainesville and got back in touch with his high school sweetheart, Aurelia Wallace.
In an ROTC class at Gainesville High School
was joined by Aurelia and three veterans.
...Nelson is also a member of the Decrepit Birdmen, a veterans' group comprised mostly of World War II vets, most of who were in the flying business, Newman said.
shared an example of the CDs onto which he
hopes to transfer all the cassette interviews.He
turns and names the Birdmen sitting to his
left: Dick Golze, Russell Smith and Kirby Stewart.
"They can't help it," Newman