Story By Susan Henderson / Photo by Ajay Johnson

Never give up on your dreams for they do come true. Just ask 90 year old WWII Veteran Ken Anhalt, who recently had one of his greatest wishes become a reality. Ken Anhalt is a very well known resident of Sierra Madre, CA. Involved in a long list of civic activities, he is probably best known as one of our treasured veterans of World War II.

When I first met Ken, I was overwhelmed by his vitality. He’s opinionated, compassionate,hard working and charming. He’s a member of the VFW 3208, the Sierra Madre Kiwanis Club and the recipient of the Older American Of The Year Award in 2010. (Partial listing). I will never forget that event. When Ken received the honor, one of the things that he shared with the audience was that he would not have been there had it not been for the Tuskegee Airmen who flew the Red Tail planes that escorted his aircraft during the War. Anhalt, was a Staff Sargent gunner in the Air Force during World War II. He served in the 15th Air Force in Italy between the years of 1942-1945 in approximately 28 -- 30 missions. At one point during the war he experienced the life changing event of being saved by the very well-known Tuskegee Airmen. During his time serving he was given a mission to fly a four engine bomber over the Swiss Alps into Germany, attack, and then return back to Italy. After hitting their target successfully they were struck by a German attacker causing them to lose half of their engines. With a crippled plane and death seemingly eminent, the men felt like it was their last moments alive. Suddenly, off the tip of each wing, two “Red Tails” appeared on the horizon. The tails of all Tuskegee Airmen planes were painted in red so they were easy to identify. The bomber pilots were told via radio traffic that there were German fighters in the area, but they did not attack because the Red Tails escorted them back to the landing site. When bombers reached the target area, they were met with heavy fire from the Germans. The fighters escorts would leave the bombers and re-join them after they finished their bombing run. Mr. Anhalt said he was always impressed that the Red Tails did not leave the bombers when they reached their target area, like the other squadrons did. The Red Tails stayed with them the whole way.

In 2011, a friend, Ajay Johnson, was doing a documentary on the Airmen and I told him about Ken. We arranged for Ken to participate in the documentary which was also used to promote the film, “Red Tails”. You can hear him speak of his experiences in his interview by clicking here.

One of the things that Ken has often repeated is that he always wanted the opportunity to meet one of the Tuskegee Airmen in person and thank them for saving his life. Ajay remembered this too, and two weeks ago Ken received a call from Ajay. Says Ajay, “Susan Henderson introduced me to Ken Anhalt in 2011 because I was producing a documentary that involved Tuskegee Airmen. Mr. Anhalt was a tail gunner on a bomber, that was saved by two Tuskegee Airmen over the Swiss Alps. When I interviewed him, he told me his Captain would not allow him to go and thank the Red Tails. So for 70 years he wanted meet one. I was arranging a meet and greet with Amnon Band of Band Pro, to thank him for providing the equipment to shoot my documentary, so I invited Mr. Anhalt to meet Tuskegee Airman Ted Lumpkin, one of 8 still living that saw combat in the war. This was there moment, I just let them sit down and talk about an hour, and stayed out of their way.

Mr. Lumpkin brought his grandson, and Mr. Anhalt brought his son. Special thanks to Amnon Band of Band Pro Film & Digital, Inc.,  and Robin Petgrave of http://www.tamuseum.org.”  You have to hear Ken in person speak of his experience. There are no words to completely describe it, you just have to hear it for yourself. So, if you notice that the sun seems to be shining a little brighter lately, that’s just Ken who has been simply overjoyed since meeting Lumpkin.

We’re happy to share this experience of Ken’s and we want to thank him, Mr. Lumpkin and all of our veterans and current military members for their service. Without them, we would not be here.