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Flying to dental clinics across Alaska

Jul. 9, 2014 - 02:17PM   |  
Jerry Hobit
Jerry Hoblit holds a picture of his father, Col. Noel Hoblit, who was killed in the C-124 crash. (Conroe Courier (Texas) via The Associated Press)
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When Air Force Col. Noel Hoblit returned home from World War II, life for his adolescent son finally took on the normalcy it seemed to have lacked since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Hoblit, an oral surgeon, was with his family at nearby Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, at the time of the attack. As the nation went to war, 5-year-old Jerry’s life was suddenly upended: He and his mother moved in with Jerry’s grandparents in Missouri while the colonel remained in Hawaii for the duration.

“My father left about the time I started having memories,” Jerry Hoblit recalled. “It was a very turbulent time for my family. Both my grandparents died while we were living with them. I was separated from my father until I was 10 years old. Then we got back together.”

There were Sunday ski trips from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, to Mount Rainier, and long conversations on the drives there and back — a tradition he continued by taking his own children skiing on weekends.

“That’s when I started having a father. That period only turned out to be about six years,” Jerry said.

Hoblit had talked about the dangers of his job after the war — flying to dental clinics across Alaska. The colonel was returning from meetings at the Pentagon when he boarded the doomed C-124 Globemaster on Nov. 22, 1952.

Jerry, then 16, still remembers his mother’s cries early the next morning. The base commander and a chaplain had come to deliver the news.

The tragedy changed the course of their lives.

“My dad thought I had the wherewithal that I should be a doctor,” Jerry said. “That became out of the question when he left the scene and we lost his colonel’s salary. My mother was down to $75 a month with two boys to raise. That’s what a widow got in those days. Seventy-five dollars was hardly enough to feed a family for a month.”

After high school, Jerry went to West Point and commissioned into the Air Force, where he became a Wild Weasel — “someone who finds and directly engages surface-to-air missiles,” he said. “It was a new job for the Air Force in my day. And it was hazardous.”

Jerry flew three tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Fred, 10 years younger, followed his older brother to West Point and became an electronic warfare officer in the Air Force.

Jerry retired as a colonel and lives in Texas; Fred retired as a lieutenant colonel and lives in Virginia.

Later in Jerry’s career, he investigated military aircraft crashes. So he understood better than most the likelihood of his father’s plane — much less his remains — ever being discovered.

“That was an absolutely total aircraft accident,” Jerry said of his father’s crash. “Sometimes parts survived. Only the tail section survived on this one.”

Colonel Hoblit’s dog tags were recovered soon after the 2012 discovery of the wreckage.

“That just doesn’t work in accidents such as that,” said Jerry, who praised the professionalism and caring the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command showed his family after the discovery.

The late colonel will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in November.

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