Reporter’s notebook: Squadron receives presidential citation after 60 years

Ret. Col. William Creech waited 60 years for his squadron to receive a presidential citation. The former Cannon Air Force Base commander said he grew tired of school children not knowing what he and others in the Army Air Corp’s 528th fighter squadron did in World War II.

Creech said his squadron, dubbed the Dragonflies, struggled through monsoons and thousands of miles of hot and humid jungle to free Chinese villages from Japanese control.

Creech, 82, wrote a letter in 2001 to President Bush asking for official recognition. It went unanswered. “I got angry,” said Creech, who serve as base commander at Cannon from 1969 to 1972.

Creech said his daughter, Connie Belcher, took up his cause, presenting documentation from her father’s experience, which she received from the Army’s Historical Squadron in Montgomery, Ala., to a Pentagon official. She visited the Pentagon three times.

The 10 living Dragonflies were honored Oct. 9 in Seattle with their presidential citations.

Creech’s copy of his presidential citation is in a folder. “I haven’t gotten around to hanging it up yet,” he said.

The original citation will be displayed at an aviation history museum in Sevierville, Tenn., together with pictures and other Dragonfly memorabilia, Creech said.

Creech also wrote a book about his experiences in a little over a year “for the kids of today and for ignored history,” he said. The book is titled: “The Third Greatest Fighter Pilot.” Creech said the title “reflects the existence of a higher power.”

Reporter’s notebook was compiled by CNJ staff writer Andy Jackson. Suggested items may be mailed to Managing Editor Rick White at P.O. Box 1689, Clovis 88102. The e-mail address is: rick_white@link.freedom.com