Thursday, April 3, 2014

A trip back in history

A Trip Back In History

Chase and Glen standing in front of a B-17

It has to be one of the most memorable trips ashore we have had in a very long time.

I heard on the cruiser's net that several vintage WWII planes would be coming to Marathon.  I decided to take the kids out of (home)school for the day and make it a cool field trip.  They were excited about it - though more excited I think about getting out of school that going to see a few old planes.  So we started the day at the tennis court while we waited for them to arrive.  As we were vollying back and forth, a loud rumble roared over head as a huge plane, dropped its gear over us and blackened out the sky for a brief moment.  My kids stared up as they went over, their mouths gaping open.  From that point on, they had absolutely no interest in tennis or anything else.  They wanted to get to the airport!

We rode our bikes there (about four miles against the wind) and they were so excited when we got there they stopped at the fence and stared.  I will say that the planes look especially huge when you are up close to them... even larger than when they roar overhead.  So we paid our dues and in we went...

Chase climbing up into the B-17

I have to say, this was one of the most spectacular plane-visits I have had the pleasure of seeing.  Most of these visits are nothing more than an outside examination of a cool plane (no touching).  THis place was just the opposite and you could not only touch the planes, but you could climb through almost every aspect of them.  They foundation that runs these planes has spent an enormous amount of money to restore them as close to their original condition as they could.

The B-17 really was a fabulous plane.  The planes were highly overbuilt and could sustain an incredible amount of damage before they were brought down.  However, they had less of a range and though they were smaller, actually carried less ammunition than the B-24.  A positive of the B-17 is that it could handle multiple roles and after the war, it was used for a multitude of things from fighting fires to deliver goods.  Because of this versatility, there are still many examples of B-17's today and many still fly.

Chase and Glen standing outside the B-24 

The B-24's are a completely different animal.  It was purposely built for one purpose:  to carry bombs.  It had a larger range and could carry more payload and larger bombs.  It was one of the most effective bombers during the war.  However, it was much more susceptible to damage and a water landing was especially dangerous because of how the bomb doors were made.  Given its narrow body and specific design, the B-24 had no real civil use after the war and most were scrapped.  The B-24 pictured here is the last, flying B-24 on the planet.  All the rest are either non-operational museum pieces or completely gone.

The P-51 Mustang... a gorgeous aircraft.

The P-51 Mustang (this fighter was the C if I recall correctly), is an incredible beauty to behold.  Fast and could fly at high altitudes.  For those that have never heard one of these (this is the second time in my life), they have a very distinctive sound and a kind of whistle as they go by.  Incredible planes.  I believe that many P-51's survive still today, though I think this is the only C version still flying.  This version was also a two seater (front and back) which was especially unusual.

These particular planes fly around the country and do open tours from coast to coast.  If you get an opportunity to see them, do it.  Fabulous step back in time.  My kids loved it and it was a great history lesson.  Especially when they held the machine guns, I asked them how they would feel with a swarm of german fighters shooting holes around them... when they either had to shot them down or be shot.  There was no where else to go.

1 comment:

  1. Brian-my wife has been following your exploits on G+ and just pointed out to me that you posted a story about your visit to the Collings Foundation's bomber tour. I took a peek at your blog and was pleased to see my old friends the 24, 17, and 51. My friend Steve is the crew chief on the 17 and stays with some friends from church here in Kansas a few weeks out of the year. I was invited to volunteer in Salina, KS in 2009 and I can say it was a pure joy. I've been a B-24 fan since a kid and almost wept when I got to touch one in person. I spent the two days wiping down the planes, talking to the visitors, and most of all, meeting the heroes who flew them. You can read about it on my blog- As volunteers we got to go on a fly around with one of the tours but greatest of all, I got to ride the 24 from Salina to Kansas City, right over my home, at about 1000 feet. It was one of the greatest days of my life. Collings does a great job (they've got other planes on tour as well) and we owe them a great debt. You've given your boys a great gift and I applaud you for it.
    By the way-if you ever get to Kansas look us up. We'll take you for a sail on our 27' Newport built in 1970 and named for a Viet Nam hero-Glenn Harry English, Jr, who received the Medal of Honor for actions that took his life the year the Glenn E was built. Every time we sail we remember our nation's heroes.
    And who knows, when you're here, our buddy Steve might be here and we can talk about flying ships while we enjoy our sailing ships.
    Kind regards and happy sailing
    Rocky B.