Veteran attends Army-Air Force reunion
Former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Haenn, 100, well remembers his time serving his country.
The centenarian recently attended the 2017 reunion of the Army’s 467th Bombardment Group-Heavy Duty in Arlington, Va.
Haenn was accompanied by his daughter Judie Herb, a retired Parkway Manor Elementary School nurse.
He spoke with The Press about the upcoming reunion before his trip to Arlington.
“I am anxious to see if I know anybody,” Haenn said. “I thought I was done going to reunions.”
He also discussed his time in the military.
“I was with the Eighth Air Force, 2nd Air Division with the 467th Bombardment Group-Heavy Duty, 789th Squadron stationed at RAF Rackheath near Norwich, Norfolk, England,” Haenn said.
“I was an airplane and engine mechanic and worked on the (Consolidated) B-24 Liberator heavy bombers.”
Haenn, who was 25 at the time began his service in the Army-Air Force, received his notice of induction on Feb. 4, 1943.
He was officially inducted at the Reception Center in New Cumberland, Cumberland County, before heading to Miami Beach, Fla., for basic training.
“I was very lucky the way they drafted me and being a mechanic and working on planes,” he said. “I tried to enlist in the Navy but they told me I was color blind so I waited until I was drafted.”
Haenn, who served 212 missions with the Army, was awarded a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with six Bronze Stars.
He was honorable discharged from the 233rd Army Air Force Base Unit on Oct. 11, 1945.
“Over the years, I have visited the base in England three times,” Haenn stated. “I have also attended the reunions in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Florida, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio and Seattle, Wash.”
Haenn recently commented about the reunion and the sights he and his daughter visited in Washington D.C. and Arlington.
“My biggest disappointment about the trip was I thought maybe I would see more of my fellow mechanics who I worked with in Rackheath,” he said.
Fellow servicemen attending the reunion included mechanic Will Noden from Titusville, N.J.; John Weyler of Houston, Texas; and pilot Joe Zbikowski of Bel Air, Md., who flew Haenn home from the war.
Guest speakers at the reunion included Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commanding general of the Eighth Air force, Command Master Sgt. Alan Boling and Maj. Krisalyn Vaughn, aide to Bussiere.
Haenn said Bussiere was one of the most impressive officers he has ever met and he was surprised at how young he is.
“He was down to earth and personally spoke to each veteran at the banquet,” Haenn said. “He knew what he was talking about and recognized the strategies the Eighth Air Force developed during World War II that are the standards used in the present day Eighth Air Force.”
Haenn said the coins presented to him by Bussiere and Boling are very special to him.
He keeps them in his pocket to show people who may be interested in seeing them.
Haenn said the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Center near Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Va., was impressive.
“I couldn’t believe the number of airplanes in that building,” he said.
“I never realized they could not fly the Concord over the states because it would knock out the windows.
“I never thought I would ever see the space ships like the Discovery Shuttle and the Mercury and Gemini Space capsule. Unbelievable construction and power.
“The engineering was something to imagine. Every tile on the space shuttle is shaped differently.”
Haenn and his daughter also took a bus tour to the World War II Memorial, the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Air Force Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, where they watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Before joining the Army, Haenn worked as a milling machine operator at the former U.S. Gauge, Sellersville, one of the world’s leading suppliers of bourdon tube pressure gauges.
Haenn, who enjoys hunting, fishing, baseball and softball, played on the Dublin hardball team.
“I was an active member with the Dublin Fire Company for 15 years,” Haenn said. “I am the oldest living member of the Chalfont Fire Company. I served 32 years as an active member from 1951 to 1983.
“I was the assistant fire chief for 19 years and I also drove ambulance for 20 years with the Chalfont Fire Company.”
He was also a commander with a VFW for two years in Pennsylvania and seven years in Florida.
Haenn, who was born April 16, 1917 in Philadelphia, was raised in Dublin, Bucks County.
He graduated from the former Sell-Perk High School in 1935, now South Middle School in the Pennridge School District.
He and his late wife, Florence, were married 74 years.
In addition to their daughter Judie, they had a son, the late Dr. Joseph F. Haenn.
Haenn has three grandchildren Kimberly Willett, Joseph F. Haenn Jr. and Christine (Herb) White and one great-grandchild Cody Willett.