Origin and Placement of the 71st/17th SOS Memorial Plaque

(Update; June 14, 2016. The 71st/17th memorial plaque has been removed from the Memorial Park at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF). It was delivered to the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum in Columbus, IN by Al Heuss on May 21, 2016. The plaque was removed and relocated to its new home to make room for a new memorial bench at the NMUSAF that will represent all three AC-119 gunship squadrons (71st, 17th, and 18th SOS). The 71st/17th plaque is now on permanent display at the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, and the new memorial bench will be dedicated during a ceremony at the NMUSAF in September, 2017.)

During the 1993 71st SOS reunion business meeting, Lt. Col. Earl Scott suggested the 71st membership consider establishing a 71st/17th SOS plaque in the Memorial Park at the Air Force Museum. A vote was taken and all agreed that such a plaque would be appropriate and desirable. Earl stated the memorial plaque project would cost about $2,500. During the course of the business meeting, individuals started donating money to the tune of about $1,400 prior to meeting adjournment. It was further suggested a memorial ceremony be scheduled in conjunction with the 1995 71st SOS reunion to be held at Columbus, Indiana.

Earl Scott sent a letter to 71st personnel on December 8, 1993 stating 33 individuals had donated a total of almost $2,100. He further stated that he and Dick Morgan met with Air Force Museum representatives on September 28 and paid for the cement footing on which the stone and plaque would be located. At that time, there were very few vacant monument spaces remaining, so quick action was necessary.

Earl Scott sent another informational letter to 71st personnel on August 4, 1994. He informed everyone a 4” red maple tree had been planted behind the marker location, and that he and Dick Morgan would proceed the marble mount and brass plaque before the summer is over.

On March 7, 1995, Earl Scott informed 71st members the plaque and marble mount had been contracted for, and that sufficient funds had been received to pay for the installation of the plaque. He further stated the dedication ceremony would be held at 1400 hours on Friday July 13, 1995.

The 71st SOS reunion was held in conjunction with the Columbus, Indiana “Celebration ‘95”. The three-day celebration served to recognize and commemorate all Army Air Corps and Air Force personnel and units stationed at Atterbury Air Force Base/Bakalar Air Force Base from 1942 to 1970.

The 71st/17th SOS memorial plaque was officially dedicated on Thursday, 13 July 1995 at the Air Force Museum Memorial Park. It is located in the southeast corner of the park at location #230. The inscription reads:

"Dedicated to the members of the 71st Special Operations Squadron, a USAF reserve unit, and the 17th Special Operations Squadron, a regular USAF unit. The 71st ferried the AC-119Gs to Vietnam and established the aircraft as an effective defensive weapon in early 1969. The 17th continued with the Shadow until the end of the Vietnam conflict."

"We especially dedicate the memorial to our comrades who have “slipped the surly bonds of earth” as they made the ultimate sacrifices."

Dedicated 13 July 1995.

Lt. Colonels Earl W. Scott and Richard E. Morgan (USAFRes-Ret.) are to be commended for being the driving force behind the origination and placement of the 71st/17th SOS memorial plaque at the Air Force Museum.

A panoramic photograph of the attendees was taken at the 71st/17th Plaque Dedication Ceremony on July 13, 1995. (This is a WIDE and fairly large .jpg file.)

Additional 71st/17th Plaque photos are available here.

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