Final two WWII squad members share solemn toast to fallen comrades

- They had their first reunion in Chicago in 1946. Now, more than 70 reunions later, two veterans of the 451st Bomber Squadron met again -- this time at an Applebee's in Bradenton, Florida.

The squadron started in 1942, training at what was then MacDill Field in Tampa. Later, they flew their B-26 Marauders to Europe to fight the Nazis.

The men of the 451st became more of a brotherhood than a squadron.

"You live together 24-7, you die together, you work together. There's no room for someone who doesn't want to be close," explained 93-year-old Sanford "Sandy" Graves.

He believed their friendships would last forever, but the young flyers who helped win the war have now been lost to time, except for two.

"We're down to that point now: two people standing. Marshall and me," Graves said.

He and 95-year-old Marshall Clark were fellow pilots in the 451st, and at this meeting, they were about to take care of some unfinished squadron business.

The business was in a box, signed by many of their comrades around 1969. Names were crossed off as they passed away. By military tradition, there was a bottle of Cognac inside.

"And the last two people alive drink it, and that's where we are now," Graves said. "We're going to open it today and make a toast out of it."

It took some doing to cut open the box that was sealed nearly 50 years ago, but they did it. Then they poured shots for family members and other customers in the restaurant.

Graves and Clark raised a toast. Then Graves read the names of more than a hundred men from the 451st who were killed in combat.

"It's just something we don't want people to ever forget," he offered.

As a final gesture, the last men standing paid tribute to those who fell before the many reunions that kept the squadron together.

NEXT STORIES: 

10-year-old funds veterans' honor flight trip
WWII veterans celebrate birthdays by flying in iconic planes
Bay Area VA hospitals hang printed presidential portrait; waiting for official copies
Vietnam War deserter found in Florida retirement community
These pups are changing veterans' lives
Choir sings to soldier escorting body of WWII veteran
Students' voices help heal veterans
Families open their homes to aging veterans
Paralyzed veterans receive high-tech help

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

WATCH FOX 7 NEWS LIVE

FOX 7 News streams at the following times (all times Central):


Monday - Friday

4:30 a.m. - 10 a.m.

12 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.

5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Saturday

6 a.m. - 8 a.m.

6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday

6 a.m. - 8 a.m.

5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

9 p.m. to 10 p.m.



Schedule subject to change in the event of network sports coverage.

We also stream press conferences and other breaking news coverage from time to time. When we are not in a live newscast, you will see replays of the most recent broadcast.

To enter full screen Mode click the button.

For closed captioning, click on the button while in full screen mode.

Desktop/tablet users: To choose the stream's video quality, click on the button (while in full screen mode) and choose from 432p or 270p.

Mobile users:The video quality default is to your phone's settings.

Please allow time for buffering. If the stream stalls, refresh your browser. Thanks for watching

Stories You May Be Interested In - Includes Advertiser Stories