World War II veterans gather to remember at AMC Museum

Former C-47 paratrooper George Shekel of Lansdale, PA, right, and former C-47 pilot Don Clark of Kenton share a laugh about their days of heroic deeds during World War II at Dover Air Force Base's Air Mobility Command Museum Saturday morning..(Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Former C-47 paratrooper George Shekel of Lansdale, PA, right, and former C-47 pilot Don Clark of Kenton share a laugh about their days of heroic deeds during World War II at Dover Air Force Base’s Air Mobility Command Museum Saturday morning..(Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Staff Sgt. Troy Stule said it was an honor being in the presence of World War II veterans Don Clark, Ray Pegram and George Shekel.

“It’s wonderful,” Sgt. Stule said. “My grandfather was a World War II veteran and I grew up sitting at his knee talking to him.

“In high school I loved learning and talking about World War II and the desire to serve and the desire to be a part of what they did was a major motivation for why I joined the military.”

Mr. Clark was a C-47 pilot and Mr. Pegram was a C-47 radio operator in WWII.

World War II vet George Shekel of Lansdale, PA sits inside the very same C-47 that he jumped out of on D-Day 1944 during an event Saturday at the AMC Museum in Dover where he and two other vets with C-47 experience gathered to disuss their adventures of heroism. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

World War II vet George Shekel of Lansdale, Pa. sits inside the very same C-47 that he jumped out of on D-Day 1944 during an event Saturday at the AMC Museum in Dover where he and two other vets with C-47 experience gathered to disuss their adventures of heroism. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Mr. Shekel was an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper who jumped into history from the C-47 “Turf and Sport Special” on D-Day.

The men spoke about their experiences at the Dover Air Focrce Base Air Mobility Command Museum on Saturday morning.

“It’s groups like this that help keep the memory alive,” Mr. Shekel said.

“The tragedy of growing older is that people forget. It’s been my mission to help people remember.”

It was January 1945 and the Battle of the Bulge was coming to an end

Mr. Clark was 21 years-old and found himself piloting a C-47A Skytrain over the Western Front.

Its cargo bay, loaded with gasoline and ammunition, was on its way to Lt. Gen. George Patton’s 3rd U.S. Army and its tanks, as they began their push into Germany.

“I was just a farm boy,” Mr. Clark said. “But I knew I always wanted to fly.”

When Mr. Pegram heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew that he would join the Army Air Corps soon.

He decided to stay with his family for Christmas and New Year’s Eve of 1941, and he enlisted in January 1942.

During his training, Mr. Pegram was sent to a Radio School in Kansas where he learned how to maintain and operate a radio.

Mr. Pegram was then later attached as a radio operator on a C-47 Airplane named “Butch”, 71st Troop Carrier Squadron; 434th Troop Carrier Group.

Mr. Shekel had a different experience than the other men.

He was a communications corporal during World War II and was among 18 men who jumped from the C-47 into St. Mere-Eglise and gathered at Hill 30. a critical spot in the fight against the Germans.

The mission of Mr. Shekel and his fellow paratroopers that day was to seize and hold the vital crossroads town of St. Mere Eglise, France, making it one of the first towns liberated during the invasion.

World War II vets Ray Pegram of Spindale, N.C., left, and Don Clark of Kenton reminisie about their days as a C-47 radio operator and pilot respectively on board an actual C-47 inside the AMC Museum.

World War II vets Ray Pegram of Spindale, N.C., left, and Don Clark of Kenton reminsce about their days as a C-47 radio operator and pilot respectively on board an actual C-47 inside the AMC Museum.

“You never know what you’re going to do until you have to do it,” Mr. Shekel said.

Sgt. Stule, who jumped out of a C-47 as part of a reenactment to honor the men, said he gained a new appreciation for all the events that happened on that day.

“I grew up reading about these guys,” Sgt. Stule said.

“I joined the military when I turned 18 and I volunteered for jump school and what we do today is a little different from their experience.”

“The aircrafts today fly a lot higher and faster than what it was back then,” he added.

“The difference between this aircraft and the new ones are that they are a lot more comfortable to fly out of.”

Mr. Shekel said he felt honored knowing the impact veterans continue to carry on through the generations.

“After I got out of the service I didn’t want anything to do with the military,” Mr. Shekel said.

‘It was a group that started to get together and I met guys that started to get together for a reenactment group. It’s great to retell our stories, so we aren’t forgotten.”

Sgt. Stule agreed.

“I think a lot of people are very disconnected from that history,” Sgt. Stule said. “I think our generation was disconnected from a lot of the sacrifices that they made.

“What they did was secure the American future and made it so that we don’t have to go out and fight a lot of the same battles that they do.”

From right, Former radio operator Ray Pegram of Spindale, N.C. climbs aboard the C-47 inside Dover’s AMC Museum Saturday to greet fellow World War II vets paratrooper George Shekel of Lansdale, Pa. and pilot Don Clark of Kenton.

From right, Former radio operator Ray Pegram of Spindale, N.C. climbs aboard the C-47 inside Dover’s AMC Museum Saturday to greet fellow World War II vets paratrooper George Shekel of Lansdale, Pa. and pilot Don Clark of Kenton.

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