‘Flying Cossacks’ US Aviation Subdivision during the Vietnam War

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“DALLAS — Twenty-five years after being formed in Texas, the Flying Cossacks of 1964-1965 held their first reunion. The surviving pilots who could be located flew into Dallas over the April 21-23 weekend for a 25th-anniversary reunion at the Dallas Hyatt Hotel. This USAF pilot training class (66-C) assumed the name of the Flying Cossacks at the suggestion of class member Lt. Steve Olek of Chicago. Although Mr. Olek was the only Ukrainian in the class of 48 pilots, he told his classmates of the hallowed tradition of the Ukrainian freedom fighters, the Kozaks, and the class unanimously voted to wear the Ukrainian trident as their emblem, thus, becoming the first military group in the free world to do so. The Flying Cossacks collectively flew over 10,000 combat missions against the Communist forces attacking Vietnam. None of the group were lost in combat, although some were killed in other aviation accidents. One Cossack retired as a brigadier general, while others rose in rank through the years. Many became commercial pilots and are airline captains today. Mr. Olek, who spent two tours in Vietnam and flew over 550 combat missions, retired from the USA and is a senior engineer in government marketing with the Douglas Aircraft Co. of Long Beach, Calif. The Flying Cossacks joyously agreed to keep in closer touch and not wait so long to have their next reunion. At their formal dinner, Mr. Olek gave the keynote address about changes in aviation over the past 25 years and the status of the Ukrainians, still trying to win freedom from their Soviet captors and exploiters. The Flying Cossacks, because of the special kinship they still feel, pledged to keep track of the progress of the Ukrainian people, whose trident they still proudly war. Mr. Olek is the son of Helen Olek Scott, a supreme advisor of the Ukrainian National Association. He is a member of UNA Branch 22” (THE UKRAINIAN WEEKLY SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 1989)

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Lt. Steve Olek in a 1964-1965 photo:

The emblem of the 66th Subdivision:

The reunion photo:

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