Past and present meet at Bloody Hundredth reunion

Members of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation inspect a B-17 Flying Fortress and KC-135 Stratotanker on static display at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. The foundation hosted a reunion for members of the original 100th Bombardment Group from World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

Members of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation inspect a B-17 Flying Fortress and KC-135 Stratotanker on static display at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. The foundation hosted a reunion for members of the original 100th Bombardment Group from World War II. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Amrhein, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, speaks to Frank "Bud" Buschmeier during the opening event of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation reunion at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. Buschmeier is a World War II veteran who flew on 34 missions over Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Amrhein, 100th Air Refueling Wing commander, speaks to Frank "Bud" Buschmeier during the opening event of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation reunion at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. Buschmeier is a World War II veteran who flew on 34 missions over Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Derek Piefer, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, talks with Ron Batley during the opening event of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation reunion at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. The event featured a static display of a B-17 Flying Fortress and KC-135 Stratotanker. Batley is the curator of the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in England. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Derek Piefer, 351st Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, talks with Ron Batley during the opening event of the 100th Bomb Group Foundation reunion at Washington Dulles International Airport, Va., Oct. 19, 2017. The event featured a static display of a B-17 Flying Fortress and KC-135 Stratotanker. Batley is the curator of the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum in England. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. David Dobrydney)

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Airmen from the 100th Air Refueling Wing based at RAF Mildenhall, England, are honoring their World War II heritage by participating in a special reunion at Washington Dulles International Airport.

The 100th Bomb Group Foundation is hosting a reunion for members of the original 100th Bombardment Group, which flew missions out of England during the war.

Col. Christopher Amrhein, 100th ARW commander, said the reunion takes place in a banner year as 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force, the 75th anniversary of the 100th Bomb Group and the 25th anniversary of the 100th ARW.

"We are getting as much out of this weekend as those we are here to honor," Amrhein said. "Our aim is to show that their legacy carries on in the excellence of what we do."

To kick off the weekend, the Airmen brought their squadron's flagship KC-135 Stratotanker for display next to an original B-17 Flying Fortress, decorated as the "Memphis Belle." Both aircraft wear the 100th Bombardment Group's "Square D" insignia on the tail.

Among the veterans who came out to view the aircraft were Dewey Christopher and his son Gary. During World War II, Dewey was a crew chief who maintained B-17s for the 100th Bombardment Group. He later maintained Boeing 707s as a civilian, the aircraft which was the basis for the KC-135.

"I always thought it was the prettiest airplane flying," said Dewey as he gazed at the Stratotanker.

From the start of its combat assignment in 1943, the 100th Bombardment Group quickly earned the name of “The Bloody Hundredth,” as it endured heavy losses during daylight bombing raids over Europe. Frequently, only one or two aircraft would return out of formations of 13 or 15.

Gary, who serves on the foundation's board of directors, said today the 100th Bomb Group Foundation strives to be a key source of information for researchers and family members. He added that their work covers not just the 100th, but the air war in the European theater as a whole.

"[It's] probably the most active organization of its kind in the United States," Gary said. "There are so many connections we've made over the years."

In addition to the static display, the reunion will include historical symposiums and a reenactment of a wartime flight briefing.

The 100th Air Refueling Wing is the only permanent U.S. air refueling wing in the European theater, and provides the critical air refueling "bridge" that allows the Expeditionary Air Force to deploy around the globe on a moment's notice.