Bradenton airman, 91, to be honored for WWII mission

MANATEE -- Bradenton's Patt Meara, 91, will be honored Saturday for his service as a member of the 1st Air Commando, the first special-forces unit commissioned in U.S. military history.

The 2014 Air Commando Association reunion will be held at Fort Walton Beach at Herbert Field.

The unit's mission was called Project 9 when commissioned March 4, 1944, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The top-secret outfit was autonomous and was not assigned to any one branch of service.

There were originally 523 unit members and their first mission was to fly gliders behind Japanese lines in Burma to halt the enemy's advance.

"It was a total success," Meara said.

A 1st Air Commando unit still operates within the U.S. Air Force, which is honoring Meara and Dick Cole, 99, of Texas, the only two living original members well enough to travel to the event.