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Vintage military planes on display

The days of World War II will be recalled, along with the Vietnam conflict, when three “historically significant” planes will be displayed at Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport through Saturday.

Not only do the planes have a connection to American war days, but close to Virginia Tech, the Corps of Cadets and Pulaski.

The planes are a World War II-era Grumman TBM-3 Avenger and two T-26 Trojan Vietnam-era aircraft. They are scheduled, weather permitting, to participate in a flyover of Lane Stadium prior to the Tech-Clemson football game, slated for kickoff at 6 p.m.

The Pulaski connection goes to the days of the late Lt. j.g. Benjamin C. Tate, later captain, who piloted a TBM-3 in an attack against major units of the Japanese fleet west of the Marianne Islands during the first battles of the Philippine Sea on June 20, 1944.

The attacking Navy planes of Torpedo Squadron

Twenty-Four (VT-24) off carrier USS Belleau Wood inflicted heavy damage on the enemy during this engagement. The attack came late in the evening as daylight quickly faded into darkness. The aircraft returned at night, with at least two ditching in the sea.

Tate was presented the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as a pilot of a carrier-based TBM-3 Avenger.

The award cited Tate’s expert airmanship, daring combat tactics and unwavering devotion to duty with important factors of inflicting heavy damage on the enemy during this historic engagement.

Tate, who retired to Pulaski, was a Virginia Tech Corps alumnus, Class of 1942. He and two other aircraft sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiyo.

The T-28 was primarily a trainer. But Corps alumnus retired Air Force General Tom Richards flew the T-28 in combat over South East Asia.

This part of history can be viewed in Blacksburg through Saturday.

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