Close to 30 veterans of World War II bomb groups scheduled a tour of Offutt Air Force Base for Saturday afternoon, but miscommunication about the effects of the partial government shutdown shot down their plan.
About 100 people, including the veterans and their spouses, children and grandchildren from around the United States, attended the annual reunion in Omaha of the 461st and 484th Bombardment Groups.
Ryan Hansen, a spokesman for the 55th Wing at Offutt, said the veterans could have taken an unguided tour.
“We’re not sure what the disconnect was,” Hansen said. “It’s unfortunate. We were looking forward to having them out.”
Participants in the four-day reunion visited Boys Town, Mahoney State Park, the Strategic Air & Space Museum and Durham Museum. But the veterans, men who flew missions in B-24 bombers through heavy flak over Germany, Italy and other countries, were eager to take a bus tour of Offutt.
Mick Bloom of Bellevue, an 88-year-old who was a gunner in the 484th Bombardment Group, said he confirmed the Offutt tour through base personnel on Monday. “Two hours later they called me at home and told me it’s all canceled,” Bloom said.
Bloom said Offutt representatives told him the tour couldn’t take place because of the partial government shutdown, even though the veterans had their own chartered buses. Bloom said it was his understanding that Offutt volunteers had been ready to guide them.
Hansen said 55th Wing leadership received permission late last week to allow the bomb-group veterans to take an unguided tour with no federal resources utilized. Offutt officials left a message or messages for Bloom, Hansen said, to inform the veteran of this development but didn’t hear back from him.
Bloom said he left for the reunion Thursday and didn’t receive the message.
Hansen also said the guides Bloom envisioned weren’t volunteers but were public affairs staffers at the base and thus wouldn’t have been able to guide the tour because of the partial shutdown. Bloom said he doubted he could have lined up excellent guides who knew base history and other facts and figures.
The 461st and 484th bomb groups shared an airfield in Italy during World War II. They have held joint reunions in the Midwest over the past three years, said Hughes Glantzberg of Gunnison, Colo.
Glantzberg’s father, Frederic, was commanding officer of the 461st. Hughes Glantzberg is president of the 461st Bombardment Group Association.
The men spoke about their frustration Saturday before going into the Durham Museum. The Offutt visit was to take place later in the afternoon.
Bloom didn’t blame Offutt personnel. He said they had orders from way above them.
“We planned this thing so far in advance,” Bloom said. “The people at Offutt are disappointed.”
Hansen said it’s important to him and his colleagues that veterans get appropriate support. The last thing he wanted, he said, was to disappoint them.