A military buff like John Dodds could tell right away the leather
bomber jacket wasn't just any old coat hanging on a rack at a
Washington, D.C., Goodwill shop.
His daughter had noticed it and called him over, and Dodds began to
examine it. The leather was a a bit stiff, but it was in good shape,
with that perfect vintage patina. On the back was a red-bearded man in a
winged helmet, the words “Red Raiders” and “22nd Bomb Group” emblazoned
above and below. The jacket had lieutenant bars, a pricetag of $17 and a
pretty big clue as to its original owner.
"Robert G. Arand" read the name tag on the front breast, according to Stars and Stripes,
which first reported the story of the World War II relic's strange
resurfacing at a thrift shop, and its pending return to the 90-year-old
Arand, a former B-24 pilot who is alive and well in Cincinnati.
Dodds, assistant general counsel for the Air Force and an amateur
military historian who once helped a friend research his brother who was
shot down during the Vietnam War, plunked down the $17. Within 24
hours, he had reached Robert Arand by phone.
They chatted about Arand's time in the 22nd Bombardment Group, a
predecessor of today’s 22nd Operations Group at McConnell Air Force Base
in Kansas. Arand recalled a commander with red hair, Col. Richard
Robinson, from whom the group took its nickname. Arand, who flew more
than 40 missions in the South Pacific and remained in the military until
his retirement in 1983, figures the last time he wore the jacket was in
San Francisco, well before settling in Ohio.
“I remember my wife asking if I was ever going to wear it again, and I
said I didn’t think I would, except for a veterans’ parade,” said
Arand, who believes that his wife may have donated it to a charity in
Cincinnati in 1950.
Arand, a father of five, grandfather of eight and great-grandfather
of two, told Stars and Stripes he isn’t sure how the jacket wound up in
Washington, but he “would love to know.”
Dodds recently shipped the jacket to Arand, who said it still fits —
if maybe a tad snug in the chest. He's ready to show it off to his
“My children and grandchildren are anxious to see it,” he said.