The last time John Klette and Arthur Unruh saw one another, they were skidding into the United States Air Force base in Foggia, Italy. Their B-17G bomber had barely survived a combat mission in Axis territories; the men inside had done likewise. Klette, the pilot, and Unguh, the gunner, were the only men to return from that mission at all.
Nearly three-quarters of a century later, Unruh and Klette shook hands again in Klette's hometown of Park Hills. Both have spent their lives doing the same thing they did that night in the 1940s: Remembering and representing the soldiers who weren't as fortunate as them.
"I served with pride," Unruh said. "I'd do it again."
Klette, 100, was grand marshall of the Park Hills Memorial Day parade. He joined the United States Army Air Corps the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and flew 51 combat missions in the B-17. He would return to the armed forces in the Korean War, during which he spent two years flying rescue missions.
He returned to his first ambition - practicing law - when he came home, but said Monday the Air Force still had his heart.
"The Air Force has always been my love," he said. "I used to like to go out to Lunken Airport, watch the planes come in and just dream of flying a DC-3. Well, I finally achieved that."
Although Klette said he was surprised and honored to be reunited with Unruh, he encouraged other Greater Cincinnatians to remain committed to helping and honoring veterans year-round.
"I'd urge people to go to Dayton and visit the National Air Force Museum," he said. "There's over 130 plans on display there."
Including the B-17F known as the Memphis Belle, which Klette donated thousands to help museum management restore.
"I lived with that plane every day," Klette said. "I wanted that plane restored, and I worked hard for it."