By CHERIL VERNON
A World War II ace and a Vietnam War F4 Phantom pilot will speak on their wartime experiences during a “Dinner with the Aces” special event on Friday in Palestine.
Hosted by Palestine’s Texas Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1549 Dogwood Flyers, the event will kick off the Palestine Municipal Airport 80th anniversary and fly-in activities coming up this weekend.
The VIP three-course dinner will be held at 6 p.m. at Sabor a Pasion Country House and Bistro in Palestine.
The keynote speaker is WWII Ace Darrell Welch, who was assigned to the 27th Squadron of the 1st Fighter Group, which became the first squadron to be equipped with the new P38 Lightning.
Arriving in England in August 1942, the group was part of a large American force dispatched to Algiers for the North African campaign, where he made his first kill in January 1943 while escorting B17s over Tripoli.
While leading the 27th on a big intercept mission, Welch became an Ace when he notched three more victories in just 25 minutes, bringing his tally to five victories. He later saw service in the Pacific and retired in 1970.
A Vietnam F4 Phantom pilot who flew 300 missions also will speak.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and hear first-hand stories from these guys,” Palestine Airport Board Chairman John Dorsett said. “It’s such a great honor that these guys are coming to Palestine to share with us.”
Welch is now in his 90s. Dorsett is picking him up in his plane later this week.
“I’m going to fly down and pick him up in San Antonio,” Dorsett said. “I think it will be an interesting to hear about the differences of World War II versus the pilots who served in the Vietnam era.”
Cost for the meal is $35. Those attending are asked to bring their own beverage. Limited seating is available. Reservations will be taken through Wednesday by calling 903-729-9500.