98-year-old veteran gets surprise visit

George Sweanor, a retired 98-year-old World War II veteran during a visit from members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron.
George Sweanor, a retired 98-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron Leader and World War II veteran living in Colorado Springs, received a surprise visit from members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron following the unit’s training mission in El Centro, California. Photo: NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

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A 98-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) World War II veteran and former Prisoner of War received a surprise visit in late February.

On February 23, members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron met George Sweanor, a retired RCAF Squadron Leader, at the Colorado Springs Airport following a training mission in El Centro, California. 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 and Sweanor talked for more than an hour, as he reminisced about his time with the squadron and his experiences during WWII.

“It was an honour for us to meet such a distinguished veteran and founding member of 419 Squadron,” said Major Ryan Kastrukoff, Deputy Commanding Officer.

During the war, Sweanor served with 419 Squadron in the U.K. In 1942, he was captured after flying over enemy territory, and spent 800 days as a POW. In 1944, Sweanor was involved in a daring escape from Stalag Luft III camp in Zagan, Poland, and acted as a 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. He was part of the 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 RCAF Association Wing in Colorado Springs. He regularly attends events as a special guest, along with members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving at NORAD.

As part of the visit, 419 Squadron members presented him with a book commemorating the 75th anniversary of the squadron, and two squadron patches, one of which had his name stitched into it.

Sweanor has written one book and continues to write his own blog, Ye Olde, Inquisitive, Scribe.

Note: The current 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron was formerly known from 1941-1945 as No. 419 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Image gallery

  • George Sweanor, a retired 98-year-old World War II veteran during a visit from members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron.
  • George Sweanor, a retired 98-year-old World War II veteran during a visit from members of 419 Tactical Fighter (Training) Squadron.


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