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Old 10-28-2017, 10:22 PM   #1
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A Rare Opportunity - WWII B-17 Ride

Today, I was privileged to be able to go up in a WWII B-17 bomber with some that actually served in WWII on these aircraft. One man was 93 years old and had flown 50 missions (pilot) in the European Theater in WWII. He was pretty frail but still was able to go up. What a great experience this was. The Liberty Foundation sponsored this event. The aircraft actually flew in 1944 -1945 in a non-combat role. It was called the "Madras Maiden".

After I got home the reality set in and I was truly moved by this experience. These things were a flying death trap. There was no armor, only aluminum skin with 14 .50cal machine guns, Like I said they were sitting ducks. Not a whole lot of room inside. Very cramped. It's certainly not like how they depict the men and aircraft in Hollywood.

I have a much greater appreciation for freedom and the men who died serving on these aircraft. They were and are still our true heroes. I have posted some pictures for your enjoyment!

Front of the aircraft with the nose art
P1090251.JPG

Front of the aircraft where the Navigator and bombardier sat
P1090253.JPG

The tail guns. They were really a sitting duck
P1090260.JPG

This is Jack McCoy that I'm with. He served with the 303rd bomb group in Italy in 1943. He was 19 years old at that time. He was a tail gunner that flew flew 25 missions and rotated back to the US. He said that he was hit multiple times but survived. He is now 89 years old.
P1090266.JPG

Here we go - taxiing for take off! Truly an amazing experience!!!
P1090331.JPG
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Old 10-28-2017, 10:51 PM   #2
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That would be an awesome ride! On the plus side nobody was shooting at you!
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Old 10-28-2017, 10:55 PM   #3
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I was in one once, but not in the air. State of the art then, but now when we look at them.....those were some brave guys. We think of them now as old men, but they were just kids flying those things. Unbelievable. Really, those guys are heroes.
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Old 10-28-2017, 11:34 PM   #4
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Very cool, 57. Excellent pics.
Although I've never been airborne in a Flying Fortress, I've had them fly over my head at low altitude. The sound itself is far more effective than any of the products offered by those "male enhancement" emails I receive daily. Schwing!

Once I was invited to tour a B17. Like you said, it's a skeleton with a thin skin and some engines bolted on. I scooched into the nose gun--barely--unable to imagine having to endure the discomfort for more than a couple minutes. The ball turret is impossible for normal sized people. Ugh. As sexy as these planes are, to use them for their intended purpose would just be awful.

How about a poem about gunners? Not sure if it alludes to a B24 or B17, but it applies to both.

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Serious business, flying is.
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Old 10-28-2017, 11:55 PM   #5
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I was just recently at the Pima Air and Space museum. Inside that is the 390th Bomber group museum. Amazing history. And a horrible death toll the flight crews had. I grew up in an area where several fighter pilots of WWII lived. They were heros to me as a kid. I always wanted to go up in B17 Sentimental Journey which is based near me. Just haven't yet. Had an Uncle who was a gunner on B24s and 25s. He said they feared freezing more than getting shot.
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Old 10-29-2017, 12:02 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Gmountain View Post
Really, those guys are heroes.
Perhaps. Or maybe they were just guys doing what they were called upon to do. If you admire such stuff... and if you like to read... then I strongly recommend a book titled "Doorknob Five Two," by Frederic Arnold. Years ago I met a dude selling books, and we chatted for a while. After a bit, I got a vibe, and asked, "You're Frederic Arnold, aren't you?" He was, and I bought his book. Spectacular reading--buy it. That same day, I met a handful of WWII pilots. Their stories were all amazing, but I kind of learned something: they were normal guys, and they went out forced to do crazy stuff, and they totally screwed it all up, but they somehow managed to succeed despite the seemingly unsurmountable odds. A lot of the guys were not so lucky, and their stories will never be told. I suppose that's how history is written: The tales of the victorious become legend, those of the losers are quickly forgotten.

Buy Frederic's book here or on Amazon:
Fredric Arnold - Doorknob52
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Old 10-29-2017, 12:14 AM   #7
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Thanks for the pictures and story. I enjoyed them.
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Old 10-29-2017, 03:42 AM   #8
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That must have been an amazing experience Old Timer. Great story and great great pictures. Thank you.
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Old 10-29-2017, 04:43 AM   #9
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Very nice photos. Thanks for sharing Old Timer 57!

A few years ago, my nephew came into town from California. His Grandfather served on one as a navigator or bombardier (can't remember) so I paid for the both of us to fly on the "Sentimential Journey" B17. I rode in the back but paid extra for him to ride up front in the plexiglass front section. He enjoyed the ride especially taking off! The back was fun because once up we could walk around. They warned us that if we started to fall to try not to grab the exposed cables to stop out fall (these cables controlled the wing and tail control surfaces). All was well and we both enjoyed the ride.

My son in law is a WWII buff and the next year I paid for him to ride on the "Aluminum Overcast"......I think that was the name. He really enjoyed that flight too. It was his birthday present.

I recommend anyone to take the B17 ride if they can. Something you'll not soon forget.
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Old 10-29-2017, 06:12 AM   #10
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Very cool! They had an airshow out here once offering rides. But you had tons of people ahead of you. So we skipped it. One of these days.


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