The 1st Emergency Rescue Squadron (ERS) was formed in the summer of 1943, after intensive water rescue training and transferred to the Mediterranean to coordinate with Air Force bomber and fighter sorties. The following year they rescued 350-400 survivors from the USAF, RAF, allies and even German crews, often under extreme weather conditions, frequent fighter enemy action and shore battery shellings.

In late 1944 bomber bases moved north and there were fewer overwater flights. The 1st ERS was split, the 1st remained in Europe while the newly designated 7th ERS transferred to India, then Okinawa until war’s end. Back in the US, the squadrons were deactivated.

Three years ago, the 1st and 7th met in Peoria, Illinois, for their first reunion in over 50 years. The event continues annually. Rescue dinghies made way for steamboat cruises, golf, antiquing and most especially three days of bull sessions – savoring enduring friendships.

reported by Chuck Dill, Peoria, Illinois