COLUMBIA, S.C. – E.G. “Buck” Shuler Jr. celebrated his fifth birthday in Venezuela, where his father was an engineer building roads for the oil industry. The next day, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and Buck’s Dad joined the Navy and went to build airfields in the Pacific.
A month later, the storied Eighth Air Force was activated at the Armory on Bull Street in Savannah, Ga. The Mighty Eighth would play a big role in Buck Shuler’s life. One day, he would command it as a lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force. Today, in retirement, he is the vice chairman of the board of trustees (and former chairman and CEO) of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, located near Savannah.
On Friday, Feb. 24, he will talk about the history of the Eighth and its museum at a noon “Lunch and Learn” session in the Education Room of the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia. The session is open to the public and free of charge.
Gen. Shuler is almost uniquely qualified to speak on his topic. A graduate of The Citadel, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1959. He started his career as a pilot in B-52s, flying 22 nuclear airborne alert missions, six of them during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He later switched to F-4 Phantom fighters, in which he flew 107 combat missions over North and South Vietnam and Laos.
He graduated from both the Command and Staff Course of the Naval War College and the National War College in the 1970s. In 1988, three days after his promotion to lieutenant general, he assumed command of the Eighth Air Force. He was no rear-echelon commander. Even as a three-star general, he flew air refueling missions with the Eighth in Desert Storm in 1991. Later that year, he retired to Columbia, where he and his wife, Annette Fontaine Maury of Mobile, Ala., have lived ever since.
The Eighth Air Force came into being in January 1942 and soon began its most famous mission – strategic daylight bombing of Nazi targets in northern Europe, continuing until the German surrender in May 1945. It was the largest deployed combat Army Air Force in the Second World War.
Later, as part of Strategic Air Command, the Eighth engaged in combat operations during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as in Operation Desert Storm. To this day, it conducts critical combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gen. Shuler’s lecture is the sixth of nine “Lunch and Learn” sessions at the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in the 2016-17 season. The next will be held on March 31.
About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military material culture from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.