Aircrew remembered at memorial

By IAN FAIRCLOUGH Valley Bureau

GREENWOOD, BRITISH COLUMBIA - The lives of 10 maritime patrol aircrew members from the United States, who lost their lives in the line of duty, were remembered Sunday at a memorial service at 14 Wing Greenwood.

The annual VP International service paid tribute to nine members of a flight that crashed on Ellesmere Island in the North West Territories in 1954 and one on a flight that crashed in the Philippines in 1971.

Their names were added to a book of remembrance that now has 1,830 entries from 13 countries of aircrew who have died in service since 1947. VP International was started in 1966 by 19 Canadians, one American and one Australian flyer, all stationed at 407 maritime patrol squadron in Comox, B.C. They started the group for aircrew who had each logged in excess of 2,000 hours in the P2 Neptune aircraft, with the purpose of promoting harmony and good fellowship.

In July 1970, the association reorganized itself. It now has headquarters at Greenwood and more than 5,500 members worldwide representing 18 countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Republic of South Korea, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Spain, The United Kingdom, The United States and South Africa. Only Chile, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Portugal and South Africa have not recorded a death.

The membership criteria remains at 2,000 hours of flying time but it can now be earned in any fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft. When the memorial at Greenwood was dedicated in 1997, members decided the monument should have a more human aspect, said retired major Norman Donovan. That's when the book of remembrance began; he has worked on it ever since. He said the initial work on the book produced a lot of names from each country's air force, but people in the United States remember more crashes every year, he says, and then contact him. He had another e-mail Sunday morning from someone talking about a crash that was not part of the book.

New names have been added every year since the memorial was dedicated in 1997. Mr. Donovan said he'll be tracking down information from the latest e-mail starting today. Major Allan Harvey of 14 Wing Greenwood, the president of VP International, said the group is about camaraderie and the memorial is an important part of paying tribute to those who have died. "It's about people who share the same experiences: the long monotonous flights, day and night, in all kinds of weather all over the world," he said. "We need to respect and remember our friends who didn't come back."

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