B-17 flight brings back memories of service
Brian Blansett, Shawnee News-Star
When the e-mail came across offering media flights aboard a restored B-17 bomber on Memorial Day, it seemed like a good way to honor the thousands of American airmen who died in World War II.
I also knew it would interest one other special B-17 crewman: my dad, a flight engineer on B-17s during the war.
So, I reserved two seats on the Liberty Belle flight and called Dad to tell him he'd be taking off again in a B-17.
En route to meet the Liberty Belle at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City Monday, Dad calculated that the last time he was aboard a B-17 was December 1945, a couple of months before he was sent home and discharged after two years in the Army.
It didn't take long around the plane for the 65 years to begin melting away.
Soon he was like a kid reunited with an old toy, pointing out features on the Liberty Belle, giving a quick tour of the interior and striking up a friendship with a former sailor who said he'd had half a flight in a B-17. He'd had to hit the silk when the plane was shot down.
By the time we were ready to take off and Dad had assumed his old position on the flight deck, it really wasn't hard to imagine him a 20- year-old gone off to fight a war.
The good thing was that he'd gone off and then come back home alive.
Thousands of other airmen didn't, sacrificing themselves to bring an end to Hitler's Reich and the Japanese Empire.
I thought about that as the Liberty Belle circled peacefully around Oklahoma City and tried to imagine what it would have been like for the crews of the 4,735 B-17s that went down in the war.
Many died and others — like Fred Fehr's father — survived but spent the rest of the war in prison camps.
That's the purpose of the Liberty Belle, to make us think of those sacrifices and help bring some of the reality of World War II to the generations of us who enjoy the benefits of the peace it brought without the suffering it
Posted on Tue, August 17, 2010