It was VJ Day All over again in Norwood on Monday afternoon.
For more than 30 minutes, sirens shrieked, bells chimed, and people shouted a tremendous welcome to Colonel George T. Lee who came back to his hometown in a blaze of Glory for the second time since his accomplishments as a fighter pilot elevated him to the ranks of America’s top air heroes.
Welcomed earlier by state and local dignitaries of the South station in Boston, Colonel Lee was met by a roaring throng of townspeople at Guild Square shortly after 4:00 and escorted through town atop Norwood’s new aerial ladder truck. Sharing in the reception was one of Colonel Lee’s officers in “Lee’s Lieutenants”, Major William B. Cologne, who was also coming back for a gala reunion. His wife was waiting at the Lee residence on Rock Street, flying here some days ago from Georgia.
While the fire sirens at the station house and on the ladder truck wailed, and the Tilton Memorial bells in the tower of the Municipal Building tolled marital airs the procession continued along Washington Street as children and adults alike swarmed along the sidewalks on both sides of the thoroughfare for a lingering look at the famous flyer.
SCHOOL BAND PLAYS
Music was furnished by the Junior High School Band under George Farnham, and members of St. Catherine’s Drum Corps were also in the line of march. Escorting the airmen on the tire truck were two uniformed Legionnaires, Commander Joseph Nuttall of the Norwood Post and Umberto Bal-boni, and Selectmen Harry B. Butters and Michael J. Curran, as well as members of the church Drum Corps. Fr Christopher Griffin, who arranged the homecoming celebration after learning of Col. Lee’s return to the States late last week, was kept busy supervising the proceedings as the procession paused momentarily before the Municipal Building at Central Street. There, General Manager Francis W. Smith climbed on the fire truck, extended the greetings of the community to Col. Lee and Maj Colgan, and joined the welcoming party as it continued down Nahatan street to the Lee’s Rock Street residence.
Mrs. Mary T. Lee, who had been excitedly rushing about her household duties in preparation for her son’s homecoming, was waiting at the door as Col. Lee jumped from the fire truck and hopped up the familiar front steps and clasped his mother in embrace.
Before retiring inside the home, where Mrs. Lee had prepared a sumptuous feast of turkey and steak, with all the fixings, Col. Lee turned to the admiring throng that milled about the house and In a few words thanked them for the splendid tribute.
Home on a short leave, the 26-year-old commander of the intrepid 86th Fighter Group and holder of the ETO record of 258 combat missions. is not thinking at the moment about being released from the service. Jet propulsion may be his new forte. His immediate plans are to renew old acquaintances in Norwood and then take his mother to Sea Island, Georgia, for a rest.
Plans for Monday’s homecoming celebration for Col Lee mushroomed as did those for the first celebration accorded the Thunderbolt pilot when he came home for a short leave in May, 1944. Stirred by the news of his scheduled arrival Monday afternoon, townspeople joined in the spirit of the occasion, which was not dampened in the least by the steady rain which fell early in the afternoon. “
GREETED BY GOVERNOR
As the New York train pulled into the South Station at 3 10 p.m.„ Governor Maurice J. Tobin and Acting Mayor John E. Kerrigan were on hand to extend the official greetings of the Commonwealth and the City of Boston. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph C. Walsh, pastor of St. Catherine’s Church, and Fr. Joseph Hart of the mission priests now at St. Catherine’s, were present to greet the flier, as were Judge Frank Coughlin. Legionnaires Nuttall and Balboni, and Lee’s brothers and sisters.
At the station. Col. Lee rushed into the arms of his sister, Dorothy L. Lee, a cadet nurse at the Boston City Hospital. “How’s Mother?” were his first words. “She’s swell, but come home and see for yourself,” his sister replied.
Escorted to Norwood in a motor caravan, the party skirted the town and came into Guild Square, where the welcoming procession had lon< been assembled. The weatherman had finally decided to cooperate, and although grey clouds hung low over Norwood, the rain stopped in time for the impromptu parade through town.
A banner stretched across Washington Street at Town Square and another attached to the fire station proclaimed in large letters, “Welcome Home, Col, Lee.”
As the din rose and old friends shouted an affectionate “Hi-ya, Georgie,” Major Colgan (a Georgia man) turned to the Colonel and remarked that “Southern hospitality was never like this,”
Lt. Patrick Coyne and Sgt. Joseph Flood were the official police escort, while other officers were stationed at intersections throughout the business district to keep the crowd and traffic in check.
U. S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall and Congressman Richard B. Wigglesworth, who had heard of Col. Lee’s homecoming and who were also aware of his outstanding war record, wired their congratulations to the flier from Washington.
The leader of the famous 86th Fighter Group, called “Lee’s Lieutenants,” entered the service in December 1941. He rose to the rank of colonel in three years. He holds the Distinguished Flying Cross from the United States and Great Britain and the Silver Star and the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters. His squadron received the Presidential Citation.
(All articles originally published in the Norwood Messenger)