Central Valley Honor Flight Prepares To Soar - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Central Valley Honor Flight Prepares To Soar

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FRESNO, Calif. (KMPH) -

Next week 73 World War Two Veterans will get an "Honor Flight" to Washington D.C. they earned decades ago.  A former POW from Fresno, Rudy Giannoni is one of the Veterans making the trip.

Rudy is an Air Force Veteran.  In World War Two this native of Dos Palos was part of the 447th Bombardment Group.  He was a gunner on a B–17.  On June 8th 1944 on a mission to take out an oil refinery in Germany, his place was hit by anti–aircraft fire.  "So we all bailed out, everyone of us bailed out and as I was coming down my parachute about five seconds later as I bailed out I saw the plane explode."

The Germans were waiting on the ground and for the next eleven months Rudy would be a prisoner of war.  He spent eight months at Stalag Luft 4. 

The Russians were moving closer so the Germans ditched the camp.  "They didn't want us to be freed by the Russians so they took us out of the camp and marched us, this was the coldest winter Germany ever had and they marched us for three months over 600 miles."

8,000 men started the trip that excluded food and water.  But only 6700 soldiers made it.  Giannoni is ready to share his story with fellow Veterans and eager to hear their moments from WWII.  "I think it is gonna be one of the most inspiring spectacular events of my life."

Central Valley Honor Flight will treat 144 local Veterans and their guardians to see the WWII Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, plus the Vietnam, Korean and Lincoln Memorials. KMPH News will be there to witness their final mission with honor.  Reports on the KMPH Ten O'clock News begin Tuesday night.

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