New friends Dr. Harold Brown and Vernon Roen
The traveling exhibit of the Red Tail squadron is expecting two to three thousand people to attend their exhibit this weekend, but Dr. Harold Brown of Port Clinton, retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Tuskegee Airmen, didn’t expect to meet one visitor in particular. Vernon Roen, a B-24 bomber pilot, came to the Red Tail exhibit Thursday with his daughter, Nancy Dunlap. Roen and Brown have had many close encounters before, but this is the first time they have formally met. Roen was escorted by the Tuskegee Airmen three times during his service in WWII.
Roen was shot down March 8, 1945, and Brown was shot down March 12, 1945. Both men are 89 years old. Roen was picked up by the Free Polish Army, who were working with the British 8th Army, and evaded being taken behind enemy lines. When Brown was shot down, he was picked up by the enemy and and spent the last two months of the war as a prisoner of war. Roen grew up in Wisconsin and Brown grew up in Minnesota, only 100 miles apart. This is the first time Brown has met a serviceman that he escorted and this is the first time Roen has met a serviceman that escorted him.
“I have never heard the details of my father’s service until today,” Dunlap said. She was overcome with joy to see Brown and her father become such quick friends and be able to talk to each other about what they had been through.
Roen has two other children and resides in Ravenna. He enlisted in the service the day after graduating from high school and was in combat for three and a half years. Roen saved his the parachute that floated him to safety and made it made into baptismal dresses for each of his children. “Without that parachute,” said Dunlap, “I wouldn’t be here.”
“We were young, silly and invincible. We never thought anything bad would happen to us,” said Brown.
Roen replied, “The older you are, the more careful you get. That’s why you and I are still around.”
The Red Tail Squadron traveling exhibit presented by the Commemorative Air Force will be at the Erie Ottawa Regional Airport Aug. 29-Sept. 1. The exhibit showcases a twice fully restored rare red-tailed P-51C Mustang fighter just like the ones Tuskegee Airmen flew in battle.
The six principles that the Red Tail Squadron lived by are:
• Aim high
• Believe in yourself
• Use your brain
• Never quit
• Be ready to go
• Expect to win
All children touring the free Rise Above exhibit will be given dog tags engraved with the Red Tail Squadron principles.
For more information on the Commemorative Air Force visit www.commemorativeairforce.org or www.airsho.org. For more information on the Red Tail Squadron visit www.redtail.org. For more information on the Liberty Aviation Museum visit www.libertyaviationmuseum.org.