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A 98-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Second World War veteran and former Prisoner of War now living in Colorado Springs, Colo., received a surprise visit Feb. 23, 2018.
George Sweanor, a retired RCAF Squadron Leader, was met by members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron at the Colorado Springs Airport following the unit’s training mission in El Centro, Calif.
Sweanor was one of the founding members of the squadron that stood up in 1941 in the United Kingdom as the third RCAF bomber squadron overseas.
Members of 419 Squadron talked with and listened to Sweanor for more than an hour as he reminisced about his time with the squadron and his experiences during the Second World War.
“It was an honour for us to meet such a distinguished veteran and founding member of 419 Squadron,” said Maj Ryan Kastrukoff, deputy commanding officer of the unit.
During the war, Sweanor served with the RCAF in the United Kingdom with 419 Squadron. In 1942, he was shot down and captured after multiple flights over enemy territory, spending 800 days as a Prisoner of War.
Sweanor was also involved in a daring escape from Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp in Zagan, Poland, in 1944 and acted as a security lookout during the excavation of the escape tunnel dubbed “Harry.” This event was immortalized in the 1963 film, “The Great Escape.”
Following the war, Sweanor remained with the RCAF. Also of note, he was one member of a group that opened Cheyenne Mountain, former home to North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.
His last assignment was in Colorado Springs, where he retired and began teaching at Mitchell High School. He is also a founding member of 971 Royal Canadian Air Force Association Wing in Colorado Springs and regularly attends events as a special guest, along with members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving at NORAD.
As part of the visit, Squadron members presented him with a book commemorating the 75th anniversary of the squadron, a current squadron patch and a squadron patch with his name stitched into it.
Sweanor has written one book and continues to write his own blog.
The current 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron was formerly known from 1941 to 1945 as No. 419 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force.