RCAF Second World War veteran gets surprise visit

News Article / March 15, 2018

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From NORAD/USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

A Royal Canadian Air Force Second World War veteran and former prisoner of war now living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, received a surprise visit on February 23, 2018.

Squadron Leader (retired) George Sweanor, 98, was met by members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron at the Colorado Springs Airport following the unit’s training mission in El Centro, California. Squadron Leader Sweanor was one of the founding members of the squadron, known then as No. 419 Squadron, which stood up in 1941 in the United Kingdom as the third RCAF bomber squadron overseas.

Squadron members and Squadron Leader Sweanor talked for more than an hour as he reminisced about his 419 days and his wartime experiences. “It was an honor for us to meet such a distinguished veteran and founding member of 419 Squadron,” said Major Ryan Kastrukoff, deputy commanding officer of the unit. 

During the war, Squadron Leader Sweanor served with the squadron in the United Kingdom. After making multiple flights over enemy territory, he was shot down and captured in 1942, and spent 800 days as a prisoner of war. He was also involved in the daring “Great 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”.

Following the war, Squadron Leader Sweanor remained with the RCAF. He was a member of the group that opened Cheyenne Mountain, the former home of 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.

Squadron Leader Sweanor was a special guest at Canada Day celebrations at NORAD Headquarters in 2014. At that time Canadian Lieutenant-General Alain Parent, then-deputy commander of NORAD, presented Squadron Leader Sweanor with the “Bomber Command Bar” to be affixed to the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, in recognition of his service with Bomber Command.

During the recent 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.

Squadron Leader Sweanor has written one book, “It's All Pensionable Time: 25 Years in the Royal Canadian Air Force”, and blogs.

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