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WWII vet returns 70 years after earning wings at Luke

Lt. Col. Chris Bacon, 308th Fighter Squadron commander, coins 1st Lt. Ken Sadick, a World War II veteran, March 15 at Luke Air Force Base's Open House and Air Show. Sadick, 90 years old, graduated from Luke Field in March 1944, receiving his wings exactly 70 years ago this month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Boyer)

Lt. Col. Chris Bacon, 308th Fighter Squadron commander, coins 1st Lt. Ken Sadick, a World War II veteran, March 15 at Luke Air Force Base's Open House and Air Show. Sadick, 90 years old, graduated from Luke Field in March 1944, receiving his wings exactly 70 years ago this month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Boyer)

Then 1st Lt. Kenneth Sadick, World War II P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, poses in front of his P-47 Thunderbolt in the November of 1947 in St. Tronde, Belgium, just a month before flying in the Battle of the Bulge. (Courtesy photo)

Then 1st Lt. Kenneth Sadick, World War II P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, poses in front of his P-47 Thunderbolt in the November of 1947 in St. Tronde, Belgium, just a month before flying in the Battle of the Bulge. (Courtesy photo)

Kenneth Sadick, a first lieutenant in World War II, passed his instrument flight test on Feb. 14, 1944, and was awarded his wings in March of the same year at Luke Field. Sadick returned to Luke Air Force 70 years later for Luke's Open House and Air Show. (Courtesy photo)

Kenneth Sadick, a first lieutenant in World War II, passed his instrument flight test on Feb. 14, 1944, and was awarded his wings in March of the same year at Luke Field. Sadick returned to Luke Air Force 70 years later for Luke's Open House and Air Show. (Courtesy photo)

Then 1st Lt. Kenneth Sadick, World War II P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, poses for a photo with his fiance Norma in 1945 in Phoenix. The couple were married for 68 years and had two daughters. (Courtesy photo)

Then 1st Lt. Kenneth Sadick, World War II P-47 Thunderbolt pilot, poses for a photo with his fiance Norma in 1945 in Phoenix. The couple were married for 68 years and had two daughters. (Courtesy photo)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The Luke Air Force Base Open House and Air Show is not only a great opportunity for the public to experience the capabilities of the Air Force, but it also draws many who have served their country to reminisce on their active-duty days while checking out their old planes on display. For one World War II veteran, the return to Luke was particularly special.

Nearly 90-year-old Kenneth Sadick, a WWII pilot, returned to Luke AFB March 15 for the Open House and Air Show exactly 70 years after being awarded his wings at the Army Air Corps' Luke Field.

"It's a nostalgic feeling to be back here," he said. "It's a very patriotic feeling. Seeing all the jets and people who make things happen here leaves me with one feeling -- pride."

Sadick enlisted after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He, along with most young people at the time, were united in their desire to take the fight to the Japanese, Sadick said. To his dismay, he was sent instead to Germany to fight.

"It wasn't my first choice, but I was still excited to take the fight to the enemy," he said.

Sadick flew more than 40 combat missions during WWII in his P-47 Thunderbolt with his wife's name, "Norma," painted on its side. He recalls one of his first missions during which he learned an important lesson about protecting what the Air Force now calls personally identifiable information.

"When I was first in Germany, I hadn't completed 10 missions yet, I was coming out of a dive bomb run and got hit by a German 20mm through the left wing," he said. "I got so excited I got on the radio and said, 'Col. Morsey, this is Sadick, I've been hit.' I heard no response. I made it back and got called into the colonel's office. 'The Germans already know enough about us, when we're on the radio I am Red 1.'"

Another mission left Sadick alone and out of gas.

"It was 1944, we were going on a long-range mission into Germany," he said. "We used additional external fuel tanks for the distance. When I released the bomb I also dropped the extra fuel tank so we could get a little extra boom. When coming out of the dive my engine quit. Everyone else continued back while I tried to think fast about what was happening. I found that my fuel supply switch had been moved to the external tanks that I just dropped. I switched to my internal tanks and it kicked back on in time to recover."

Upon hearing of Sadick's reunion with his training base, Lt. Col. Chris Bacon, 308th Fighter Squadron commander, wanted to meet the war hero.

"These guys are our heroes," Bacon said. "These are the ones who pushed me to become a fighter pilot. It was an honor to get to speak with this WWII fighter pilot."

Bacon honored the hero by performing the military tradition of coining Sadick.

"Being able to recognize a hero from WWII is an honor for me," Bacon said. "We truly walk in the shadows of the giants who came before us."