A piece of WWII history
By CRAIG KELLY | The Lima News, Ohio | Published: June 17, 2017
LIMA, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — It was 1945. The United States had spent over three years in combat, with soldiers fighting and dying in Europe and the Pacific and civilians on the home front manufacturing munitions and military hardware, including nearly 13,000 Boeing B-17 bomber planes. One of them, the “Sentimental Journey,” a B-17G Flying Fortress, was built, taking its maiden flight on July 28.
On Friday, this plane made yet another flight, this time to the Allen County Airport as part of the Flying Legends of Victory Tour put on by the Commemorative Air Force, based out of Arizona.
The stop in Lima is part of a nationwide tour for the 72-year-old plane, offering the opportunity for both educating younger generations about military aviation history as well as commemorating the veterans who fought and died in planes like this one.
“There are only 10 (of these planes) left that are flying, and this is one of them,” Commemorative Air Force volunteer load master Brian Smith said. Everyone involved with the tour, including the pilots, are volunteers. “Every May, the Sentimental Journey leaves Arizona and over the summer months, it does a five-month tour. It’s really about spreading the message about what our veterans did for us during World War II. The plane is about history and education, because we’re losing our World War II veterans every day.”
As part of that commemoration, B-17 veterans and those involved in constructing these planes are invited to sign the inside of the bomb bay doors, a way of thanking them for their service.
“We’ve even had some Rosie the Riveters sign,” Smith said. “That’s usually a great reaction for people to see. That’s living history.”
Touring the inside of the bomber can also help young people learn more about how aviation was conducted using methodology rarely seen today given advancements in technology.
“You have a real sense of what the crews went through,” Smith said. “It’s technology from over 70 years ago. They had no GPS. They did it by maps and compass, and that’s how they got there and back. It’s the best we had 75 years ago.”
While Ralph Ward of Findlay may not be a veteran, he is a fan of aviation history. That love of planes brought him down to Lima to witness the Sentimental Journey’s arrival.
“I’ve always been into World War II fighter planes and bombers, and I build all kinds of models,” he said. “I just finished building the ‘Memphis Belle,’ and I’ve always enjoyed it.”
©2017 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio)
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