Wisconsin veterans reunite with their past in warplane flight
By NEIL JOHNSON | The Janesville (Wis.) Gazette | Published: July 21, 2018
JANESVILLE, Wis. (Tribune News Service) — Beloit resident C.S. “Chuck” McClintic embraced his friend, Jennifer Burner, on the tarmac at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in the misting rain Friday afternoon.
McClintic, 83, a former U.S. Marine aircraft mechanic, had just climbed off a shiny, silver, World War II-era B-25 Mitchell bomber. As a former Marine and a civilian pilot, McClintic has been aboard many aircraft—but never a B-25 bomber.
The former Marine sergeant was one of six local military veterans selected by the Commemorative Air Force to take flight Friday afternoon in a set of vintage war planes. The honorary flights were part of the group’s national AirPower History Tour, which is making a stop today and Sunday at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport with air shows billed as the “Janesville Warbird Weekend.”
McClintic flew in the tail gun compartment of the double-engine plane as it thundered beneath low rain clouds, circling 2,800 feet above Janesville, Beloit and Clinton.
When McClintic got back on the ground, the first thing he did was ask if his “nurse” from the Beloit Cancer Center was there. Burner, who said she is actually a greeter there, set up McClintic’s honorary flight.
Burner got McClintic, a patient at the cancer center, a spot in the B-25 because he has often talked to her about his military service during visits.
McClintic said he has fought pancreatic cancer for the past seven years.
Burner said she wanted to honor McClintic, who she said is kind and friendly to everyone he meets.
“He didn’t sleep all night last night before this flight,” Burner said. “He was too excited.”
The two hugged on the tarmac with the shining war bird behind them.
“I don’t care how many planes I’ve been on. This was amazing to me,” McClintic said.
McClintic shared the plane’s rear compartment with two other local veterans: former U.S. Army infantryman Vincent Treinen, 84, who served as a forward observer for the Army’s artillery division in Germany during the Cold War in the 1950s; and John Morrisy, 83, who served as an entertainment officer for the U.S. Army at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for two years following the Korean War.
Three others flew on military aircraft for the Warbird Weekend, but McClintic, Treinen and Morrisy were on Miss Mitchell, the 53-foot-long, restored B-25 that was used in the 310th Bomb Group on 130 bombing missions in Africa and Italy during World War II. The plane is a mirror-shiny silver color with a diving woman in a rose-colored swimsuit painted on its nose.
The Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force flies the plane at hundreds of air shows per year.
Treinen, the former Army artillery spotter who called his job a “warm seat in combat,” hadn’t flown in a military aircraft like the B-25 since he was a young man.
“I came home in ’56, and I haven’t flown a prop job like this thing since,” Treinen said.
He practically bounded down the plane’s hull ladder when it landed after its half-hour flight Friday. He was grinning.
“It’s an awful chunk of metal,” he said, beaming up at the plane.
McClintic, an Ohio native and former General Motors employee, had joined the Marines out of high school and reached the rank of sergeant at 19. He said he was stationed along the East Coast during the mid-1950s. McClintic said it was an honor to fly on a plane in which he knew 19-year-old troops in World War II had risked their lives.
“They flew over Germany in these bombers when it was 30 below on the ground and minus 70 in the air. Seven, eight, nine hours at a time. Those were tough boys,” McClintic said.
After the flight, McClintic had to sit down.
“There aren’t words to say what this means to me and the other veterans here today,” McClintic said. “I know at my age, I’ll probably never get to fly in a plane like that ever again.”