|Living History Comes Alive at Squadron Meeting
By 1st Lt. James A. Ridley, Sr., PAO
PATCHOGUE, NY – 7 February 2007. To some, history is a collection of dates, places and stories found in a textbook or in a thirty minute documentary shown on the “History Channel”. To others it’s part of their past. World War II took place well over 60 years ago and while many of the people who made up the “Greatest Generation” are no longer with us, many survive to tell their tales. One such person came to the Col. Francis S. Gabreski Squadron to tell his tale, Lt. Gottfried Dulias of the German Luftwaffe.
Now in his 80’s, Lt. Dulias still cuts a figure standing in front of the Gabreski cadets wearing his Luftwaffe Uniform circa 1943 and regaling them with the story of his younger days, first as a Hitler Youth cadet and later as an ME-109 fighter pilot flying over the Russian Front. In his brief combat career, Dulias was credited with shooting down 5 enemy aircraft with no losses of life before ground fire brought his plane down over Russian Occupied Territory. Captured, beaten and left in a labor camp for three years, Gottfried was eventually repatriated to his homeland in 1948 before emigrating to Long Island, NY in 1953.
The cadets listened intently and asked many questions about his wartime and peacetime experiences. Today Gottfried, now a widower, is an author and a member of a Luftwaffe re-enactors group. He tours the tri-state area giving speeches to aviation groups and aviation enthusiasts at air shows. Several cadets purchased his autobiography which he gladly autographed before taking pictures with each and every cadet who asked him to. One thing is certain, for a brief time, World War II was not just found in a textbook for these cadets, it came alive, took shape and left a big impression on them, far more than could any history lesson they had in school.