When a group of American pilots lined up for a picture in front of a war plane at a lonely outpost in Burma in 1945, they couldn’t have dreamed some of them would become a magazine fashion models 40 years later
But that incident gave the members of the 9th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron something other then war feats to talk about this weekend when they held a reunion in Dayton.
Bausch & Lomb, the sunglasses manufacturer based in Rochester, N.Y., helped host the vet’s get-together because some of them have been featured in the company’s nationwide advertising campaign for three years.
Norman D. Salik, director of marketing services for Bausch & Lomb, said that during World War II, the Army Air Forces asked the company to design glare-free sunglasses for pilots. The company then developed its Ran-Ban glasses, and the Army Air Corps issued them to pilots in World War II.
Salik said about three years ago he went looking for a picture of WW II pilots wearing sunglasses and came across the 1945 picture taken of the 9th Squadron. The photo was retouched so that all but three of the pilots were replaced by models wearing a new line of sunglasses the company was marketing.
The advertisement was published in several national magazines. It has been appearing for nearly three years before someone spotted the photo used as part of the original picture taken in Burma.
The Rev. William S. Findley, a Presbyterian minister from Woodland Hills, Calif., called the B&L offices in September. He had been a 1st Lieutenant in the squadron and was in the original photo that was touched up by Bausch and Lomb. But Findley was blocked out in the ad. “I know those guys,” he told the Rochester company.
Saturday, when the group gathered again for a photo in front of a P-38 at the Air Force Museum, Findley told the story of how he found the ad.
He said he happened to be thumbing through a magazine one day in California and spotted it. “I just about jumped out of my skin,” he said. “And I called Rochester right away.
Jack Modica, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel from Fort Walton Beach, Fl., and John Grieves, a retired businessman now living in Top sail Beach, N.C., are two of the pilots recognizable in the ad, and they are both on hand for the reunion Saturday. The third pilot shown could not be identified and was not on hand for the reunion.
Grieves had brought with him a pair of sunglasses that started all the fuss and said, “They’re good as new. They’re great for playing golf and skiing.”
Thirty-six vets and their wives lined up for the Bausch and Lomb “official photograph” at the museum. Salik says that before they leave for home, they’ll all receive pictures the company took and a new pair of sunglasses.
Note from the Webmaster: The unidentified pilot in the Bausch and Lomb ad is 9th PRS pilot, 1st Lieutenant William N. Bluntzer.