THE AMERICAN BEAGLES – 2d FIGHTER SQUADRON
The Gathering of Eagles Foundation is honored to recognize United States Air Force Colonel (Retired) Melvin ‘Mel’ Bryant as a 2020 Air & Space Power Legend. Shortly after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Mel dropped out of his first year of college and enlisted at the age of 18. He quickly commissioned into the fledgling Army Air Corps and deployed in 1944 as a P-51 mustang pilot assigned to the 2nd Fighter Squadron, better known as the ‘American Beagles.’ He flew 37 combat missions during World War II over Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. On 22 February 1945, while attacking a German armored train, Mel’s aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft flak, forcing him to bail out over hostile territory. Mel was quickly discovered and interned by the Nazis as a Prisoner of War for three months before he was liberated and returned to the United States at the end of the war. Undeterred, Mel went on to complete a 33-year career in the Air Force. He would fly 47 more combat missions in the Korean War and Vietnam. He retired from active-duty service in 1975 as a Colonel and base commander at what is now known as Hurlburt Field, Florida. At 95 years old, Col (Ret) Mel Bryant is the last living member of World War II’s American Beagle Squadron. A living legend, Col (Ret) Bryant, has flown everything from single-prop fighters to super-sonic jets in three different significant wars. The GOEF and RangerUp present this shirt in honor of Col (Ret) Mel Bryant and the legacy of the American Beagles Squadron.
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