Men’s Club – WWII Veterans Recall their Service

There is probably not another group that meets on a regular basis in Dana Point with a higher percent age of military veterans. With this in mind we enjoyed two presentations by vets leading up to November 11 and Veterans Day. Peter Hammer, a retired Marine, spoke to us about the 5th Marine Regiment Support Group. This group, consisting of vets, military families and civilians, engages in various activities to raise money for military families of wounded soldiers, provides moral support for families of the deployed, and other worthwhile endeavors, truly an honorable cause. One of the most daring and sadly, one of the most costly air raids of WWII, was the low level bombing mission of the Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti. Major Bob Sternfels, a B24 bomber pilot, put on a riveting presentation of the reasons for the raid, preparations, and execution of this massive mission.

Bob spoke to us one day after his 91st birthday. He shared with us that some 176 U.S. bombers from bases in North Africa crossed the Mediterranean Sea to literally fly through hell. This was the first and last low level mission over Ploesti. Coming in and bombing from only 150 to 200 feet above the ground, the defenders exacted a brutal toll. Over 50 planes each with an 11 man crew were lost. Major Sternfels has written a book about the mission, Burning Hitler’s Black Gold. Probably the most famous photograph of bombers in action during the entire war was a dramatic shot of Bob’s plane pulling up to avoid some smokestacks at the refinery. The photo was taken from a rear mounted camera in a leading plane. The holiday season sees the club revving up the Toys for Tots gift drive. From all of the club members, a very Happy Holiday Season to all. Meeting the first and third Tuesday of each month, we welcome all prospective new members to visit us.

—Steve Leonard



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