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Frozen in time by the click of a button

  • Published
  • By Lilly Flores-Janecek
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office
A rare photograph of one of the first Air Force Basic Military Training graduating classes, dating back to the 1940s, will soon be displayed at the Lackland Museum of History and Traditions thanks to a thoughtful, soft-spoken 77-year-old retired veteran.

Eugene Clary was a teenager committed to serving his country and pursing a medical career when he joined the Air Force in 1947.

"We were in what they called then, the brown shoe Air Force, because we wore brown shoes instead of black," said Mr. Clary. "The uniform was still olive and the drill sergeants hollered just like the ones today."

His recollection of basic military training was jogged Nov. 16 when he returned to Lackland as a VIP sharing the podium at the BMT graduation ceremony officiated by his son, Maj. Gen. David Clary, vice commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va.

"It's a very special day for me, most importantly because it was a very special day for my dad," said General Clary. "This is the 60th anniversary of our Air Force, and my dad was here at Lackland 60 years ago."

The class photograph that Mr. Clary donated to the museum will be restored and preserved by a process created by the curator, Fernando Cortez, and modeled by historian's Air Force-wide. A laser print copy from the original will go on display in the BMT 1940s exhibit and the original will be stored and protected in the museum archives.

"The museum did not have this class photo in the collection and considers it a rare example of the post World War II and pre-USAF era that we know so little of," said Mr. Cortez.

The panoramic class photo of Flight 2442/Squadron BM-5 was taken when Lackland was a headquarters for the Air Force Indoctrination Division.

"What is unusually rare, according to the curator here, is that my dad actually has the names of every individual in the picture," General Clary said. "He has written it down on the back of the photo."

Mr. Clary, who agreed to be interviewed by the curator for the Museum Oral History Program, clearly enjoyed reminiscing about old times but seemed a bit embarrassed with all the attention.

"I'm surprised in a way because I just didn't realize how much importance was associated with the artifacts from the past, but Mr. Cortez is an exceptionally diligent individual and I was very, very happy to do this," Mr. Clary said.

The basic trainee, who lived in "mobilization" barracks back in the 1940s, did not realize how much of an impact taking his son to an air show at Randolph AFB, back in the 1960s would have.

"I watched the Thunderbirds at that time and I told my dad, at least this is the way I remember, I told my dad that's what I want to do for a living," General Clary said.

The general entered the Air Force in 1976 after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has commanded two squadrons, a group and two wings. A command pilot with more than 4,500 flying hours, primarily in attack and fighter aircraft, General Clary has participated in Operations Provide Comfort, Southern Watch and Deny Flight, accumulating 216 combat hours.

"My dad planted the seed. I saw what the military meant to him and although I didn't know it as service before self, integrity and excellence. That's the way I was brought up," General Clary said. "I didn't understand those words necessarily, but I have come to realize years later those are the values that I learned from my father and my mother. So, the Air Force was a natural fit for me."