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BROOKRIDGE

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The faces in the old photos may be fading, but the smiles never will. Looking at a account of their World War II Army Air Forces unit, Robert Glaser and Charles Watts can still name every one of the four men continuing with them abutting to the B-25 adviser in which they all flew. Two never alternate home from the war alive. On Wednesday afternoon, central Glaser's home in Brookridge, the memories of seven decades ago abounding forth. They talked of airplanes and action missions and of the abominable aliment they had to eat at the tiny abject abreast Kunming, China.

Sixty-seven years ago, the men bid anniversary added farewell, with the compassionate that they would blow abject with anniversary added from time to time. For three years, they had served ancillary by ancillary in the Army Air Forces as associates of the 14th Air Force in China, a action assemblage accepted as the Flying Tigers.

During those years, Glaser and Watts flew dozens of action missions. They faced bottomward adversary bullets, survived abstracted even crashes and, best important, lived to acquaint about it.

But amid the following of careers, adopting families and, of course, the ambit amid Glaser's and Watt's hometowns, those reunions never happened.

Until this week.

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Glaser, 87, said he got a alarm about a ages ago. The articulation on the added end capital to apperceive if Glaser was the aforementioned Bob Glaser with whom he had served during WWII.

"When he told me he was Chad Watts, I anon accustomed that name," Glaser said. "No one anytime alleged him Charles."

A affair was abiding to accompany with Watt's anniversary appointment with his son and daughter-in-law, who alive in Zephyrhills. Glaser told his acquaintance to be able to break for a while.

"At times, it seems like yesterday," Watts, additionally 87, said during Wednesday's reunion. "We formed with bodies who did aggregate they were asked to do, and they did it well. I anticipate you could say we're actual appreciative to accept had an acquaintance like that."

Glaser and Watts, who both volunteered for the Army, originally met in 1942 at a training abject in South Carolina. Glaser had gone through radio operator's school; Watts had accelerating as a ablaze adviser pilot. Neither knew area they were activity to be sent, and were afraid to apprentice that they were to be allotment of a baby abutment fleet slated to advice bulwark off the Japanese aggression of Indochina.

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Under the command of Brig. Gen. Claire Chennault, the Flying Tigers offered basic abutment for the Chinese Nationalist Army by initiating strafing attacks on Japanese aggressive targets, including as railroads, bridges and accumulator depots.

Watts, who piloted a Mitchell B-25 bomber, declared the missions as "quick in, quick out," with the cold of accomplishing as abundant accident to the adversary as possible.

But they were dangerous. Flying at treetop level, and generally at night, the planes were consistently subjected to adverse possibilities. Crashes were common. So was actuality attack down.

On one mission, Glaser's even was addled by adversary blaze that destroyed one of its engines. An attack to get the even aback to its abject failed, and Glaser and the blow of the aggregation had to bond out 400 anxiety from the ground. The pilot didn't survive.

"Those were the sad moments you approved to balloon quickly," Glaser recalled. "I anticipate everybody lived with the anticipation that they ability not be actuality tomorrow."

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Glaser, who alternate to Chicago afterwards the war to assignment in petroleum artefact sales, said he has abounding several Army Air Corps reunions over the accomplished 67 years, and consistently hoped he ability see Watts at one.

Watts, who still works at his family's apparatus boutique in Newark, N.J., said he never cared abundant for reminiscing about his pilot days. He chose to acquaintance Glaser because they were already acceptable friends, and he hoped they still would be.

"You don't anticipate about the years while they're activity by," Watts said. "I anticipation it ability be the appropriate time to do this afore any added time goes by."

Logan Neill can be accomplished at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@tampabay.com.



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