The history of the World War II Airborne Command is an interesting one indeed. After twenty years of hard work starting and funding the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team, that was eventually taken away from him in 2017, a victim of poorly written By-Laws of a 501c3 Not For Profit. In 2018, the birth of a new team began, with the help of his brother Roger Wolf, leading the charge, who helped founded the Liberty Jump Team and Round Canopy Jump Team, along with Several dedicatedly former WWIIADT® team members. A new organization, The WW II Airborne Command™ was born. This is a story of trial and errors, and the enduring spirit of never giving up!
The story basically starts with a mission that developed in the head of our founder, Richard “Top” Wolf when he was a young man. As a child growing up in a neighborhood where his father, and many other WWII and some Korean War veterans lived, Top was the “fly on the wall”, so to speak, taking in all the stories they told of their experiences in the service. Later, as a young man fresh in the army, he would receive training by veterans similar to those he knew on his boyhood street. Top realized that with the passing of time the stories and experiences of these men would be lost, unless he found a way to make sure that the public would be reminded and taught as the years passed and memories faded. It was then that his first team WWIIADT® was born.
The mission for The WWII Airborne Demonstration Team ® (ADT) was clear; educate the public as to the unprecedented role the brave fighting men and all those who served during WWII undertook in securing the freedom of millions of people across the globe. The best way to educate the public to keep them engaged was simple, live action parachute drops utilizing similar equipment, uniforms and even aircraft, when possible. A dynamic presentation to keep their interest and to perhaps stir their curiosity to learn more.
ADT had humble beginnings in Top’s backyard in Alderson, OK with tents for shelter and drum barrel showers heated by the ever present Oklahoma summer sunshine. Recruiting was done with anyone with a desire to learn to jump or to refresh military training from many years ago. Training was held during the week and weekends and when the handful of students showed sufficient acumen, a plane was rented and the jumps began.
The endeavor was small and the only assistant at the time was Top’s brother Roger Wolf. Together they persisted in getting the word out about the team and recruited in earnest. Retired military parachutes were hard to come by at that time and Top bank rolled the operation out of his own pocket. With no certified riggers on staff in the beginning, reserve parachutes had to be taken to the other side of the state for inspection, packing and repair. The first regularly used aircraft for the fledgling team came in the form of a Beechcraft C45 with cargo doors. The owner of the aircraft, Mr. Phillip Eakles of Holdenville, OK, liked what he saw taking shape in that McAlester back yard and offered his aircraft for the cost of fuel to help the team gain skill and hold more Jump School sessions. It was then, in 1998 that the team was officially organized with the State of Oklahoma as a not for profit Corporation.
It was also in 1998 that a West Point graduate stepped up and became the first President/Commander of the small team. With the leadership of Major Jim Rice, serving at Fort Sill at the time, the team enjoyed continued growth and began to establish a reputation of professionalism that continues to this day. The growing team was then beginning to pattern itself after the airborne demonstration teams that toured the country during the war. WWII uniforms were required as the uniform of the day and were worn during all jumps. This practice continues to this day.
As the team grew biannual Jump Schools were held, PX items such as T shirts were marketed and paid appearances at airshows Began to bring in much needed capital to finance the growth of the team and the infrastructure needed for it to continue.
Eventually the quest began to find an aircraft to purchase for Jump School training and for the team to practice and use at nearby airshows. In 1999 a C47 was located and two people entered the ADT program to help with the acquisition. Dr. Bruce O’Brian and Mr. Ray Cunningham agreed to sponsor the aircraft and the refurbishment needed for team use. The aircraft was delivered from Israel through Canada to Lawton, OK.
The next year was spent refurbishing, painting and prepping the aircraft for FAA inspections and certification. In 2000 the plane received its required certifications and was operated and stored outside at a hangar at the Lawton Municipal Airport for the next five years.
In 2005 the team took over the remaining original hangers at Frederick Army Air Field in Frederick, Oklahoma that once served as a pilot training facility for bomber pilots. The building was leased from the city of Frederick and repairs began immediately as the buildings had fallen into disrepair over the years it sat vacant. Richard Wolf lived at the Frederick Army Air Field (FAAF) for the next two years cleaning; removing old machinery abandoned by previous tenants and building classrooms, barracks, mess hall and kitchen. Ray Cunningham and Mike Zozula were both at his side the entire time to take an historic building that was very near falling into irreversible disrepair and build it into an appropriate home for the team to continue their mission to Remember, Honor and Serve the WWII Veterans and all who have worn the uniform in service to our country.The team continued to grow in number and in professionalism and built a reputation of being the premier WWII era military combat style, low altitude parachute team in the world. The team began in the early 2000’s to jump at more airshows and Veteran Reunions around the country and in Europe. In 2004 the team travelled to Europe three times to participate in jumps commemorating D Day on 6 June, jumped in Holland for festivities honoring their liberation in September and back again at Christmas to make jumps in the Bastogne, Belgium area. Richard Wolf’s fledgling idea had solidly taken root by this time as the team was training more and more people and appearing at more venues and events.
In 2009, another aircraft appeared on the horizon as available for sale and the team made to move to purchase it. After acquisition of the second aircraft, now known as Wild Cat, the plane sat in static display in the hangar at FAAF until such time that funds would be available to put it on line as and active member of the fleet for jumps and rides for the public.
In 2015 the plane was ferried to Tulsa, OK for the Tulsa based arm of the ADT Flight Crew to begin restoration. Extensive repairs have been made to the airframe and control surfaces and engines and the plane is now ready for FAA inspections and certification.
In 2016, Richard Wolf decided to step back from the board position at that he held for twenty years, knowing he couldn’t do that position justice, tending to some major medical needs. Shortly after that, the New Board decided to abort the original mission and opened up several jump chapters across the country. Something Richard was totally against. Richard stated: "At one time we meet and trained here in Frederick almost every month. Members would travel in Jump and pitch in and work. They would eat and shop in the local economy. Which was a great help to local Businesses. By that move, they are now hurting many local businesses and loyal supporters. Farming out members to other locations didn’t serve the original mission."
In 2017, after a series of disagreements about the direction of the team, the New board decided to cancel Richard Wolf's, the founders membership. ( For of any of you reading this, that might want start or form a Not For Profit 501 c 3 in the near future, make sure you protect the Founder Rights! ) A lesson hard learned, losing thousands of dollars of investment, his equipment confiscated and not returned. Twenty years of hard work gone. So Much for honoring your Veterans!
In 2018, with a need for a new team, a new organization was born, They wanted to go back to the original principals, that the World War II Airborne Demonstration Team® was built on. So the search for a new home began. After two years of hard work applying for a Not For Profit 501 c 3 status, and acquiring equipment, still unfortunately in negotiations ( COVID RELATED SHUTDOWNS) for a New location they can call home. Richard & Roger are pleased to announce their new organization: The World War II Airborne Command™ .
WWII Airborne Commands mission is to restore WWII artifacts and conduct WWII military techniques designed to preserve crucial military legacy of WWII and educate the public on the importance of these military advances. We plan to establish an educational training center to preserve historical airborne and military skills. At the education center we will provide hands-on classes that teach general WWII military training, parachuting techniques, and military classes as well as, more traditional lecture focused classes that discuss the impact these WWII techniques have on modern military techniques. Our long-term vision is to operate a museum to which both preserves the past and educates the public about WWII. We believe in Remember Honor Serve, the importance of honoring the memory of those who died by maintaining our freedom by employing the techniques that these brave soldiers employed during WWII. Our nonprofit will engage in regular WWII Airborne style and other military styles for demonstrations along with other educational outreach events designed to further our mission.