Devil’s Bridgage vets take Dream Flight


DAYTON — ‘Those Black Devils come by night, we do not hear them, we do not see them, and they kill us.’ – A quote taken from the diary of a German officer during World War II describing what it was like to face the First Special Service Force … The Devil’s Brigade … in combat.

They were perhaps the most elite of all combat units during World War II. They are recognized as the predecessors to U.S. Army Special Forces … The Green Berets … hand picked for their toughness, fighting spirit, and intelligence, The Force was a joint U.S. and Canadian military unit whose exploits have been told in books and in film.

Their numbers, at their peak, were fewer than 3,000 men. Today, there are less than 30 men of the American contingent still living. The Canadian Forcemen number less than 20.

Piqua resident Walt Boryca, 97, was a member of The Force, fighting in all of the major engagements the unit undertook.

On Thursday, Boryce and fellow Forceman Earl Coriell, of Cincinnati, met at Dayton Wright Brothers Airport to participate in one more “military” operation. The non-profit group Dream Flights was in town and made a stop at the airport specifically to honor Forcemen Boryca and Coreill as part of Operation September Freedom, a two-month-long effort to give as many World War II veterans as possible a Dream Flight in a vintage World War ll-era training plane.

The program, founded by Chief Pilot Darryl Fisher, operates six aircraft, all engaged in giving back to veterans with the flight of a lifetime.

For Boryca, Thursday’s flight was his first landing in an airplane. The Forcemen were trained as parachutists, and the former Forceman had gone aloft a number of times during his training, and in combat, but each of his previous flights, he had decended by parachute. He had never returned aboard the aircraft.

Like all Forcemen, Boryca was a volunteer, a self-described hood from the streets of Chicago, the young soldier was exactly what First Special Service Force Commanding Officer Col. Robert T. Frederick was looking for in fighting men.

One of the Force’s most storied exploits is defeating the Germans at Monte La Defensa in Italy in December of 1943. The Allies had been trying to take the German stronghold for weeks. Col. Frederick’s troops, working in below-freezing weather, scaled cliffs on the back side of the mountain that were so steep that the Germans considered them unclimable, so they were left undefended. The Force scaled the vertical mountain at night and attacked the German flanks, and defeated the Germans in just five hours of actual fighting.

Boryca’s “reward” for the fierce fighting was frozen fingers, which kept him out of the lines for several weeks.

When Boryca and Coriell met at the airport, the two old soldiers greeted one another like long-lost brothers.

It is these moments that Fisher and his volunteers cherish as they continue to bring joy to veterans, giving each an opportunity for a true Dream Flight.

The day prior, on Wednesday, Dream Flight and their venerable Stearman were at Grimes Airport in Urbana where nine area World War II veterans received their Dream Flight. The Springfield Masonic Home orchestraed with Dream Flight to give the vets an opportunity to spend a day, not only flying but in the company of family members and fellow WWII veterans.

Chief Pilot Darryl Fisher will depart Dayton with their next stop being in Cincinnati as they continue making Dreams come true for veterans.

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