Friday, November 06, 2009

Wings of Freedom

The free paper that gets thrown onto our driveway each Saturday evening had an article that piqued Pat's interest.

"Vintage aircraft that once flew bombing and escort missions during World War II will soon be landing in Athens for a three day stay."

Pat's dad flew in a B-17 during WWII. He was a bombardier.

We made the trip to the neighboring county to see the three planes that were on display:

the B-17 - (one of nine still flying)
four prop engines that burn at least 100 gallons of fuel an hour
you can sign up for a 30 minute ride for $425 (tax deductible)

the B-17 from the other side
Gunners sat up front, in the tail section and underneath the plane in clear bubbles.
Must have taken nerves of steel.
the stats

This would have been where my father-in-law sat -
in the nose of the plane below the cockpit.

exterior view
I didn't realize bombs came with inscriptions.

this is a B-24 - the sole remaining example of its type flying in the worlda P-51 - also the only (flying) one left
Pat's Uncle Mike maintained this type of plane. He was a propeller specialist and one of only 311 Flying Tigers. You can get some 'stick time' in this plane for $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for an hour. Any takers?

It was very interesting, and emotional, to see these planes. To imagine my father-in-law- the age of my sons - flying sorties, dropping bombs.
It is hard to reconcile that image with the gentle man he was. Kind-hearted, soft-spoken. In his later years he fought for gun control.

He was at Pearl Harbor on that day that will live in infamy. The only reason he survived was because he was on his way to attend church that morning. Many of his friends perished. He re-enlisted to fight the enemy. As a bombardier he went on a number of sorties. His eyesight diminished and he was removed from this position. On the next run his plane was shot down. All were lost.

He also fought at Midway, Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands.

As most WWII vets, he did not speak much of the horror of war. We have his diaries. He was a photo-journalist for a newspaper in Wheaton, IL, so we have a lot of pictures.

And a lot of gratitude. To God for sparing his life and for all the young men and women who go into harm's way to fight for our country.

More information about the Collings Foundation, the educational foundation that made this (very well attended) event possible can be found here.


Candy said...

So how many rides did Pat take?!! That is a lot of cash. From the few incidents you posted - you can certainly tell that God had his hand on your father-in-law.

Anonymous said...

I have a bit over 4 hours in a restored P-51. Fast and very unforgiving. Great plane, but she can get you in trouble fast. A friend had one about 8 years ago and let me fly the pretty bird to Dubuque Iowa and back. What a blast !! Noisy too.

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

My mother's first cousin's husband was at Pearl Harbor. He had sneaked away to get some tobacco and, thus, his life was spared. He passed away 7-8 yrs ago and I hadn't realized that he had been interviewed about the whole experience. The interview
was played in the adjoining room at the was just so moving, a tear-jerker for sure. Thanks to that generation, we are STILL the USA....a profound thanks to all of those in that generation: veterans, the ones Who Gave All and esp. their families, and also those on the homefront . My hat's off to them...would that I would be as "tough" as they were and are. They are my heroes!