For more than a decade, a Missouri mule served as a mascot for an Air National Guard squadron, entertaining countless spectators in parades and even participating in the inauguration of governors.
On other occasions he made headlines across the United States when he went to military training exercises and was subsequently denied the opportunity to deploy to France with his colleagues. airmen.
The origins of the 110th Fighter Squadron date back to 1923, when it began its military legacy as the 110th Observation Squadron headquartered at a gas station on Manchester Road in St. Louis.
The squadron counted among its distinguished members the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and adopted as its badge the Missouri combat mule, which wore aviator glasses and breathed fire through the nostrils.
“Living a legend is no child’s play,” wrote Theodore Wagner in the November 4, 1959, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Banjo A. Burro, mascot of the 110th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Lambert-St. Louis Field, learned quickly last summer after leaving the quiet of a hilltop Jefferson County for a hectic life with the Missouri Air National Guard.
“The Show Me Spirit”, published in 1973 and recounting the 50 year history of the Missouri Air National Guard, explained that Banjo was a Missouri mule “(e) listed by Colonel Robert Smith, then major and commander of the 110th Fighter Squadron,… (who) found a new niche in life at the National Guard base at Lambert Field.
Banjo wasted no time in demonstrating his unique personality and skills as an escape artist when he found a way out of the specially constructed enclosure for him at the National Guard base in Saint Louis.
The aforementioned book explained: “… at the start of his career, Banjo decided to become AWOL. He escaped from his accommodation at 2:30 a.m. one morning and wandered onto the nearby runway, shocking civilian personnel at the control tower. It took several Air Guard security guards and an airport officer to get him back to his barracks.
Obtained by the squadron for $ 75, Banjo quickly became one of the most famous members of the Missouri National Guard.
During Governor John Dalton’s investiture on January 9, 1961, the mule walked past the magazine stand, seemingly unimpressed by onlookers which included not only the Governor, but also state officials and the former President Harry S. Truman.
Banjo A. Burro’s outfit for special events helped her appear “resplendent in a showy blanket and a flippant red flight cap, her long ears tucked into the holes in the cap,” reported the St. Louis Post. -Dispatch November 4, 1959.
When the squadron made it to their summer camps, Banjo was loaded onto a private trailer and attended training exercises alongside his fellow airmen. According to reports, during off-peak hours, Banjo has gained a reputation for occasionally enjoying beer and chewing the best of cigars.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on November 5, 1961, although Banjo was frequently honored, he possessed a wild streak and stubborn nature that inhibited his promotional potential.
The newspaper explained, “He even got a number of citations from state and federal officials, but he remains ‘Airman Basic Burro’, having been downgraded several times due to his indifference to the rules. These weaknesses, and a frivolous disposition, made him endearing to the men of the squadron … “
Proving he was more than just a Missouri mule, Banjo made headlines across the country when he was temporarily removed from his military duties after the squadron received mobilization orders in response to the Berlin crisis.
“Banjo A. Burro is a Missouri mule on leave,” the Sacramento Bee wrote on Jan. 4, 1962. “Banjo is the mascot of the St. Louis-based Missouri Air National Guard squadron recently called up for service. active in France The squadron… wanted to take Banjo, but the brass refused.
Linda Drullinger, whose late father was a steam plant operator for the Air National Guard in Lambert, explained: “When the Guard deployed to France, my father had a barn and many acres in Wentzville on which Banjo could. run, so he was moved there.
She continued, “One thing is for sure – he had his own mind. When I was little I would try to ride it and sometimes it would go as slowly as a turtle but when I would turn it back towards the barn it would run off at a gallop.
The mule, Drullinger recalls, got along well with pigs and chickens on their father’s property but, despite all friendship in the barnyard, frequently found ways to escape its fenced environment.
“When he was going out we had to chase him and once we caught him he would laugh at us because he knew we were taking him back to the barn,” she said.
After the squadron returned from France in the late summer of 1962, Banjo continued to live on the farm near Wentzville. He would remain the squadron mascot and continue to participate in parades while being escorted to annual training events in a private trailer.
After spending over a decade symbolizing the “Fighting Missouri Mule,” Banjo escaped the farm one last time and was struck by a car in the early 1970s. Due to the extent of his injuries , the 18-year-old mascot had to be dropped off by a local vet.
“When he first got to the farm, I remember my little brother and I were going through the gate and Banjo came running towards us,” Drullinger recalls. “It startled me and I was able to push my brother through the door to get him to safety, but I didn’t have time to run away.
She concluded, “But when he got to me, he just stopped and stood there with a goofy look on his face.” Smiling, she added: “He was definitely a joker and we miss him very much.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.