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Roaring B-17 helps bring history to life at Idaho airport

By CODY BLOOMSBURG | Lewiston Tribune, Idaho | Published: August 10, 2012

LEWISTON, Idaho — The B-17 flowed through the noon sky like a thrumming aluminum memory before landing Thursday at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport.

The elegant old war machine, Sentimental Journey, a World War II model B-17G Flying Fortress owned by the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, will be available for rides, tours and photo opportunities today through Sunday at the airport.

The plane was brought in as a special guest at the Lewis-Clark Air Festival, which is free to the public and will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The main entrance will be west of the main airport terminal near Stout Flying Services.

Several airplanes and helicopters will be on display at the festival and will include Mike Carpentero's 1930 New Standard D-25 bi-plane. Carpentero will be offering 10-minute rides for $65 Saturday and Sunday.

The theme for this year's festival is "Salute Veterans," and a special tribute presentation will be given at 10 a.m.

But the gleaming B-17 will undoubtedly be the show-stopper, on the ground and in the air.

For some local men, Sentimental Journey is the last known surviving link to their service.

Jack Dunaway's war was 23 long flights fraught with boredom. Dunaway, 90, co-piloted a Flying Fortress on bombing runs into Germany and other Nazi-occupied countries in 1944 and 1945. The typical tour was 25 missions. The war ended before he reached his 25th, but that was all right with him.

"It was a great relief," he said.

Dunaway isn't long on words for the months he spent flying from Yeldham, England.

On his first mission he was cruising along thinking the tour might not be too hard. Then something struck the front of the plane.

"It wasn't a bird, that's for sure," he said.

The worst part from there out, though, were the long flights. Hours and hours of waiting, watching dials and trading off turns at the yoke every 15 minutes because the autopilot wasn't to be trusted.

"I suppose anyplace is boring if you don't want to be there, though," he said.

But there was that time the crew had to make an emergency landing and no one was sure if they were clear of enemy lines yet. As it turned out, they were.

Dunaway's favorite flights were the ones he took post-war — the camping trips he flew to with his family, wife Barbara Dunaway, daughter Jane Dunaway and son Bill Dunaway.

Dick Goedde had livelier memories of his time in a B-17. He rode as tail gunner for 34 missions, some into Berlin, at least three into Cologne.

Goedde, 87, of Uniontown, surpassed the required 25-mission tour, but then was asked to do five more. After that, he was asked to do five more.

Each time he was asked, Goedde said it felt the same — irritating.

On his first run, he watched anti-aircraft flak explode closer and closer to the plane. He radioed to the pilot to suggest changing the flight path. The pilot barked back that Goedde should not tell him where to fly the plane.

When they got on the ground after the mission, Goedde ran into the pilot who was walking around the plane. Goedde asked what he was doing and the pilot said he was counting the holes in the airplane.

At that point he was at 40.

On their second mission, the pilot radioed back with one question: "'Tail gunner, where would you like me to fly?'" Goedde said.

Goedde said by the time he got to 34 runs, he knew he didn't want a 35th. He had seen too many planes go down on that last run.

He told his commander that and the commander threatened to bust his rank. Goedde told him to go ahead. "I don't need stripes in the hereafter," he said.

He was homeward bound on a ship when Berlin fell.

"So be it. I'm still here," Goedde said Thursday, standing under Sentimental Journey's wing.

The plane he flew in during the war was called "Take it Home." Dunaway didn't remember the planes he flew having names. "We took whatever was available," he said.

Dunaway said he doesn't plan to go up in Sentimental Journey for a flight. "I've seen them enough other times," he said.

Goedde hadn't either, especially not at $425 for a ride, but when he was offered one for free because he served on a B-17 crew, he said, "If I'm going to save that much money I might as well go."

codyb@lmtribune.com