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Fifty years in the making: SJ gears up for golden anniversary

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AFB, N.C. -- They call it the "golden anniversary." For fifty years Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has enjoyed a golden relationship in the Goldsboro community and shined in our mission around the world.

It all started with Mayor Scott Berkeley's vision to have a base here.

"He worked starting in the '40s until July 1956 with, for and against congressmen, senators, presidents and generals to make this happen," said Dr. Roy Heidicker, base historian. "He never gave up."

"Years ago, Mayor Berkeley and other civic leaders recognized the base was a vital economic and social asset to Wayne County," said Robin Demark, chief of community relations for the base. "Today, the city, county and base enjoy partnerships through programs such as the Base Community Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Military Affairs Committee and the Honorary Commanders' program. The relationship between the base and community is truly inseparable."

The current mayor is like a group commander here, in addition to his leadership of the city, Dr. Heidicker said.

There will be more to celebrate next year, when the 4th Fighter Wing will celebrate its golden anniversary.

"This is the greatest fighter wing in the history of the Air Force," Dr. Heidicker said.
He justifies his opinion with stories about the heroes that have come from this organization.

"The 4th Fighter Group destroyed more enemy aircraft, 1,016, than any other fighter group in the Air Force during WWII," he said proudly. "During the Korean War, the 4th Interceptor Wing destroyed 506 MiG aircraft, which is significant because it was more than the entire rest of the Air Force had destroyed."

He continued with examples of the Airmen from the base.

"When Don Blakeslee, WWII Ace and former leader here, took command of the 4th Fighter Group, Germany ruled the skies. His mission was to take that away," he said.
"He personally flew more than 1,200 hours of combat; more than 500 missions. When Blakeslee's tour ended, the United States owned the skies over Europe."

The base history office is heading a project to share these stories of the base's rich heritage with the community.

Jackie Gunn, history office volunteer, wrote a script including this and many other facts about the base that will accompany a series of posters outlining the wing's history. It will be presented in schools around Wayne County over the next two months. Dr. Heidicker will also co-host Goldsboro's local cable access station, PACC-10 TV, Sept. 25-29 from 7-9 a.m. He will feature guests from Team Seymour, including a former 4th FW commander.

Just as the name of the wing has changed, so have the names of the Airmen. But some things remain the same, according to the historian.

"Airmen here have always trained hard and worked hard; whether on the front lines or preparing to go back to the front lines. There is a spirit that pervades the wing that makes us the best."

The community will also celebrate Seymour Johnson by making the 50th anniversary the theme of their Veteran's Day parade Nov. 11.
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