WWII veterans fly again on a B-24 in Wisconsin
By FRANK SCHULTZ | The Janesville Gazette, Wis. | Published: July 19, 2019
JANESVILLE, Wis. (Tribune News Service) — Brothers Glenn and Ken Boyd flew together out of India during World War II, delivering supplies to the famed Merrill's Marauders on the front lines in Burma.
“If you couldn’t find them in the jungle, they went hungry,” Glenn recalled. “Sometimes we didn’t find them for a week.”
After a while, Ken decided they should not be flying into danger together.
“It would not have been good for Ma,” Glenn said Thursday after the brothers flew together once again on a B-24 Liberator over the Janesville area.
Thursday, they sat side by side on a B-24, the first time in more than seven decades, at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport in Janesville.
A reporter tapped a knuckle on the aircraft’s thin metal skin. The sound told them they were flying in a tin can.
The brothers watched, smiled and nodded knowingly.
The engines roared as the plane sped down the runway, making talking impossible. As the plane lifted off the ground, the brothers smiled.
The reporter sitting across from them clutched his seat as the plane bobbed up and down. His gut stayed queasy throughout the 20-minute flight.
“Airplanes always make me happy,” Ken said later.
Glenn was able to get out of his seat during the flight, with help as the plane wobbled and bobbed, requiring a firm handhold at all times.
Toni Rabroker of the Commemorative Air Force had Glenn hold the handles of a machine gun mounted in an open window on the side of the plane. Air rushed past the fuselage, pushing hard against the guns’ barrel. Aiming the weapon would have been a strain.
Ken had been a pilot. Glenn was a “kicker.” He attached parachutes to supplies and kicked them out the side.
Ken recalled delivering a C-47 to a classified destination during the war. He was told to open an envelope after leaving Florida. That’s when he learned his destination was Karachi, in what is now Pakistan.
“That’s halfway around the world!” he said.
“I tell you what, my dad can tell you in great detail how to fly. I swear he could get up there and do it again,” said Ken's daughter, Cheri Bartz of Walworth, who stayed on the ground Thursday as the brothers flew.
Bartz has heard their war stories all her life. Once, Ken had to get below the fog and purposely flew only 6 feet off the ground, she said.
“It’s what he remembers best because it was the best part of his life,” she said.
Three other WWII veterans were on the flight, guests of the Commemorative Air Force, which takes veterans on flights to honor them for their service and reporters so they can publicize their air shows, like the one that runs Friday through Sunday at the airport.
Bruce Muench of Roscoe, Illinois, was a radioman in an Avenger torpedo bomber, flying off the USS Shipley Bay aircraft carrier. Compared to taking off from a carrier, Thursday’s flight was like rolling smoothly across a billiards table, he said.
Burly Brellenthin of Lake Geneva was a radio operator on a B-24 flying out of Guam. He hadn’t flown in the plane for 73 years.
“Lot of memories. It was great,” he said.
“They’re really doing a great job, keeping these planes flying," Brellenthin said of the CAF volunteers.
Don O’Reilly was a military policeman at two bomber bases in England. He knew a lot of those bombers never came back.
“My last ride was 74 years ago,” O’Reilly said.
It was a peaceful flight over Germany just after Victory in Europe (VE) Day.
O’Reilly remembered hundreds of bombers taking off and creating formations over the airfields before heading across the English Channel.
According to historical accounts, 59 bombers were shot down over Germany on Aug. 17, 1943. Two months later, another 60 were lost on a day known as Black Thursday.
Now, the entire generation that went to war is slowly fading.
CAF pilot Allen Benzing briefed the veterans before the flight.
“I salute the veterans,” he said. “It’s fabulous to have you here, really.”