US airman's old flying jacket found in back of wardrobe now on display

B-17 Flying Fortress from the 379th Bomb Group

A B-17 Flying Fortress from the 379th Bomb Group on a raid over Germany - Credit: Cavaliere Family

The family of an American airman who flew from Kimbolton in the Second World War are set to make an emotional visit to the village to take part in Remembrance events this month.

Robert Cavaliere and his sister Joan will also be reunited with a flying jacket and uniforms worn by their father Paul which were put on display at Kimbolton School after they were discovered buried away in a closet nearly 75 years after the end of the war.

Paul Cavaliere, flew more than 20 missions as a B-17 Flying Fortress navigator with the Kimbolton-based 379th Bomb Group in 1945.

Paul Cavaliere

Paul Cavaliere - Credit: Cavaliere family

The uniforms were discovered by Robert in 2019 when he cleared out his mother’s house in Virginia after her death.

He  said he was "shocked, awed and amazed" when he went into the clothes closet and found bags containing the wartime flying jacket, dress uniforms and personal kit belonging to his father, who had died in 1984, concealed behind a bend.

Mr Cavaliere said he had previously been in touch with Christopher Bates, from the  379th Bomb Group Association, when he thought about making a visit to Kimbolton.

Paul Cavaliere

Paul Cavaliere in training - Credit: Cavaliere family

"When my wife reminded me of that I knew instantly that the museum at the school was the perfect place for all of the items." Mr Cavaliere said.

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 "If the family kept them they would have been in a closet somewhere until I died and then no one else would have wanted them.  But here, they can be on display for many to see and the photographs and navigational instruments, along with the uniforms, tells a story that none of us siblings knew very much about when my dad was alive, a missed opportunity to learn about an amazing time in his life.

"So there was no question in my mind but that the school would treat the items with  reverence and make them much more widely available to the public than they would have been anywhere else we could have given them to."

Paul Cavaliere ready for combat

Paul Cavaliere in uniform - Credit: Cavaliere family

Mr Cavaliere said he was looking forward to the Remembrance events, adding: " We are very humbled by all the attention and we are looking forward to hearing maybe some first-hand accounts of people who were young kids at the time and may have some memories of the planes rumbling overhead."

Andrew Bamford, castle curator at Kimbolton, said: “Robert and his family thought carefully about how to preserve these wonderful, historic effects and remembered the connection with member of staff at Kimbolton School, Christopher Bates, and therefore donated the uniforms and personal effects to Kimbolton School, where they are proudly displayed.”

The family, whose planned visit last year was hit by the pandemic lockdown, will be present for a Last Post ceremony at the school,  wreath-laying at the airfield and other Remembrance events at Kimbolton. 

Mr Cavaliere senior flew on at least 21 operations between January and March 1945 with one of the squadrons making up the 379th Bomb Group, regarded as one of the most successful in the US Eighth Air Force,  which flew more sorties and dropped more bombs than any other unit.