Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sentimental Journey

The B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial, civilian, and military targets. From its pre-war inception, the USAAC (later USAAF) touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a potent, high-flying, long-ranging bomber capable of unleashing great destruction, able to defend itself, and having the ability to return home despite extensive battle damage. It quickly took on mythic proportions. With a service ceiling greater than any of its Allied contemporaries, the B-17 established itself as a superb weapons system, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.

When the Model 299 was rolled out on 28 July 1935, bristling with multiple machine gun installations, Richard Williams, a reporter for the Seattle Times coined the name "Flying Fortress" with his comment "Why, it's a flying fortress!". Boeing was quick to see the value of the name and had it trademarked for use. - Wikipedia

The reason for this little history lesson is because I watched 12 O'Clock High this evening before going to watch the 20 mins of fireworks over the Snake River in Lewiston. It's a fascinating movie staring Gregory Peck and a few other notable actors of that time period (Dean Jager aka General Waverly in White Christmas, Millard Mitchell - R.F. Simpson in Singing in the Rain) as members of the 918th Bomb Group during World War II. The film is based off a book and has made it's way into the Libray of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." I would recommend watching this film.

I spent the afternoon touring Sentimental Journey, a fully restored B-17 bomber. It was an impressive sight. 4 - 12 cylindar engines, glistening aluminum, the smell of grease, the number of gun mounts and bombs! There were 6 gun mounts on the plane for the crew of 9-10 persons and the plane carried quite a few bombs. This restored plane had 8 bombs that if still functional and all that would weigh 250 lbs each. Afterwards we watched the film to see what exactly these plans could do. I was impressed and the film did a great job portraying the horrors these bomb squadrons went through during WWII. It's incredible to learn about the history behind these planes.

I first read about the plane being in town due to an article in the LMT about a WWII vet living in Lewiston who last flew in one of these planes on a mission over Germany. He was shot down and was a POW. Living history! I would love to sit down with that man and hear his story. What an incredible way to spend this year's 4th of July!

1 comment:

Lee Ryan said...

I love old bombers; what a great day!

Nice post!!