Ken Johnson of Newtown shares some memories from his gunner training days as he prepares to board the historical World War II B-17 aircraft in Hartford Monday.
If you have heard a lot of commotion in the air today (Monday) and wondered what that marvelous old machine was up there, enjoy. It’s a little piece, well actually a big piece of World War II history.
The Boeing B-17 “Memphis Belle” is in Hartford the first time courtesy of The Liberty Foundation’s 2013 ‘Salute to Veterans’ tour. And what an aircraft she is.
Media were taken for a ride Monday afternoon and it was a hands-on history lesson for all of us in a lot of different ways.
Among those on the ride was World War II Air 3rd Air Force veteran Ken Johnson of Newtown, who, as an 18-year-old trained in Tampa to be a tail gunner on such a plane.
“It brings back a lot of memories and makes me wonder what ever happened to so many of the men I trained with,” said Johnson, who is 87 years old.
The aircraft is from a private collection and has been restored to look like the original ”Memphis Belle.” That celebrated plane is being restored for museum display. This year marks the 70th anniversary of its historic last mission.
The aircraft here in Hartford was the one used in the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle.”
Anxious to preserve history, the non-profit foundation travels around the country offering paid rides and free on the ground tours of the aircraft.
In Hartford, both rides and the ground tours will be offered on August 17 and 18 at Brainard Airport.
On a personal note, I have a new respect for the men who manned those planes. A history book does not do justice to explaining the risk they took when they climbed in and manned their posts on each mission or the physical appearance of the tight quarters with its power and dorsal turrets and tail gunners compartment.
A ‘heads up’ to parents and students who anticipate studying about World War II in history classes this school year. There is nothing more intriguing or engaging in a report or oral presentation than being able to describe first hand what something looks like. It beats any Google search, YouTube video or history book chapter. There will also be World War II veterans on hand both days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Take advantage of the experience, an ultimate history lesson. I promise you will be impressed and have a new appreciation for the airmen who risked their lives for our country and come away with facts you never knew.
For more pictures go here.
Most of us in the past 24 hours have seen the news items on the effort to preserve the Michigan factory where the symbolic ”Rosie the Riveter” helped build bombers during World War II.
Supporters are trying to raise $8 million to save a portion of the Willow Run Bomber Plant, where Rosie became a symbol for women contributing to the war effort outside the home.
The woman who posed for the iconic Norman Rockwell rendering of “Rosie” lives right here in Simsbury CT. A look at how the 91-year-old Mary Doyle Keefe became the symbol for the women who stepped up during war time is here.
“All the women, all the Rosies, who stepped up during World War II deserve to be honored,” said Keefe about the preservation effort. ”I met a lot of women who took over the men’s jobs during the war and they were doing what needed to be done,” she said. “They all deserve the recognition.”