Parade today features veterans of WWII

MONTGOMERY —  A World War II veteran and borough resident who flew dangerous bombing missions deep into the heart of Germany will be the grand marshal of the Lycoming County Veterans Parade here at 2 p.m. today.

The parade honors all veterans of Lycoming County and features eight divisions and more than 100 units or groups, including high school bands, mounted state troopers and antique and special cars, including a Rolls-Royce, and others carrying honored veterans of the conflict that ended 71 years ago, Mayor Andrew Onufrak II said.

World War II veteran Eugene “Gene” Pauling, the parade’s grand marshal, flew 30 missions as part of the Army Air Corps, predecessor of Air Force, Onufrak said.

“This parade is expected to be one of the largest of its kind to date,” he said. “The weather is forecast to be clear with a high of 53 degrees.”

Pauling, who enlisted in 1942, was commissioned as a second lieutenant and earned his silver pilot’s wings, Onufrak said.

“He flew B-17 bombers as part of the 305th Bomb Group, 364th Bomb Squadron of the 8th Air Force.

Pauling’s first mission was over Frankfurt, Germany.

“He barely made it back to base, only to discover the left main wheel had its huge tire shot off and was able to land safely in Britain,” Onufrak said. Pauling’s 30th and last flight was a mission to destroy a Nazi oil plant, Onufrak said.

Pauling also was a Lycoming County sheriff for many years.

Onufrak, whose father, Andrew Onufrak Sr., was a World War II veteran, serving at Guadalcanal, the first major offensive against the Japanese, will be in a war training airplane flying over the parade route, taking photographs and sharing them via social media.

While the parade is for all veterans, this year it is focused on World War II heroes, Onufrak said.

“This is their day,” Onufrak said. “Our time to say ‘thank you’ to them.

The parade, which starts at 2 p.m. at the Montgomery Area Athletic Complex and marches down Route 54, onto Main Street, Montgomery Street and Broad Street, ending at the American Legion, will have a judges’ review stand outside of the Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department.

Several area school districts, including Montgomery, offered suggestions to the committee as the parade was planned, he said.

“It’s truly a county parade, with World War II veterans leading each of the divisions,” he said.