“Wings of Freedom Tour”

 

P-51 Mustang "Betty Jane"

P-51 Mustang “Betty Jane”

On 12 February 2014, I had the utmost pleasure to travel a short route south to the Boca Raton Airport to witness the “Wings of Freedom Tour” sponsored by the Collings Foundation.  At the Signature Flight Support area there were 3 WWII aircraft waiting for us to explore.

The Mustang, the world’s only full dual control P-51C fighter, with the pilot sitting on its wing was an outstanding sight to say the least.  You can almost envision the plane on its daily route in the skies above Europe.

B-24 Liberator

B-24 Liberator

The B-24 Liberator begins to tower over you as you near her.  It puts you in awe knowing they flew their gallant missions over 70 years ago.  And today they continue to fly on a mission to educate and pay tribute.  The aircraft that sat before me was the very last flying Liberator in the world today!

B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17 Flying Fortress

The B-17 Flying Fortress was open for a tour inside.  This made it quite understandable as to the reason they used young men at the time.  I climbed the few steps on the tiny ladder and immediately felt way too large to clear the doorway, but others bigger than I had already done it         – so …  Obviously, I did not enter the aircraft properly, I tripped, pulled a leg muscle and nearly went head first into the opposite wall – the plane’s interior was skinnier than I had anticipated – but I made it.

Flying Fortress "gunner"

Flying Fortress “gunner”

One could almost imagine flying and peering down at enemy territory as I looked out from the gun.  This thought brought on an even stronger respect for the men who had done this so long ago.  Tip-toeing around the belly turret on the way toward the cramped cockpit was another unique experience, but I’ll let you use your imagination.

Pilot Ed Kaminski, still at work

Pilot Ed Kaminski, still at work

I had the privilege to meet WWII pilot Ed Kaminski beneath the wing of his Fortress eagerly showing his book of photos and explaining the workings of the aircraft.  I listened as he explained to the gentleman in the photo and then put forth my own queries.  Ed had been with the 452nd Bomber Group and flew out of Deopham Green, England until he was wounded on his 32nd mission.  He is now a member of the “Gathering of Eagles.”  (The 452nd Bomber Group’s outstanding record can be found in Wikipedia.)

Memorial in England

Memorial in England

 

 

The Wings of Freedom Tour for the Collings Foundation  can be found on line  (I believe in May they are on the west coast of the U.S.) and what they charge to take you up for a ½ hour flight.  I’m afraid I had to forgo the experience, due to being way out of my budget.  For future reference you can locate it HERE>

 

 

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11th Airborne Update – 

It was stated in our last “Voice of the Angels” newspaper for the 11th A/B Association, by Matt Underwood our Editor, that we now have a new Chaplain.  Some of you might recall that Rev. Charles A. Bailey, our previous chaplain and his wife both passed away last October 2013.  We are now proud to have his son, Brigadier General C. Ray Bailey; currently serving out of the Pentagon, to step into his father’s shoes for us.  Welcome Deputy Chief of Chaplains, and Thank you!

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A Special Shout Out –flag04

A HUGE HELLO AND THANK YOU TO A GREAT BUNCH OF VETERANS AT THE ARKANSAS VA HOSPITAL!!   ALL OF US OWE OUR FREEDOMS AND PRIVILEGES TO MILITARY SUCH AS YOURSELVES!! GOD BLESS EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU!

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Cpl Rudy Hernandez

Cpl Rudy Hernandez

Hernandez w/m the 187th RCT

Hernandez w/m the 187th RCT

 

The 187th RCT has lost Cpl. Rodofo Perez Hernandez, Korean War Medal of Honor recipient.  He was 82 years old.  He entered the service at Fowler, California and won his medal near Wontong-ni, Korea, 31 May 1951.  There is an exhibit at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum dedicated to Corporal Hernandez.  Three Black Hawk helicopters flew over the cemetery during his funeral service.  Rudy, Thank you and Farewell.

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Christan J. Chandler – Trenton, TX; US Army, Pfc, Afghanistan, 2nd Battion/87th Infantry Regiment/3rd Brigade Combat Team/10th Mountain Division

Troy Harp – Berryville, AR; US Army, WWII

Bronze Star

Bronze Star

Paul Hennessey –  Boston, MA; USMC, Sgt. Major, 27 years

Richard Isaacson – Lyons, IL; US Army

Wally McCoy – Kent, WA; US Navy, WWII, pilot

Bruce Oxley – Montreal, CAN; Royal Canadian Army, WWII

George Richardson – Palmerston North, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 71261, LAC No. 14(F) Squadron, WWII

Arthur Richter – Seattle, WA; US Army, WWII, 1st Lt., Purple Heart & Bronze Star

Nicholas Scodari – Berlin, MD; US Army, WWII, 26th Infantry Div., Bronze Star

Victor Streit – Levittown, NY & Jupiter, FL; USMC (1937-1949), WWII, 1st Marine Div., PTO

Fred Teed – Palm Bch. County, FL; 2nd A/B Division/45th Infantry, Korea, Bronze Star

Josephine White – London & Annapolis, MD; British Army/Aux. Terr. Service

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. – Solvang, CA; US Army, WWII, 5 years, Purple Heart (beloved actor of stage, screen and TV)

Click on images to enlarge.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on May 5, 2014, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 80 Comments.

  1. Great to see this. My Dad was a tail gunner on a B-17. He met my Mother in England during WW2. He told me once about surviving the war: “you just figured you were already dead.”
    Woah!

    Like

    • When you were young, you probably thought he was making that up. Wait till you see Monday’s post – perfect for a tail gunner’s son! Thanks for coming by!

      Like

  2. I really loved looking at those WW2 aircraft , superb , that was really flying your machine ,no computers there in sight !. We have an airworthy Mustang here in Brisbane , you know the sound soon as it hits the air . Those WW2 flyers were all gallant men.

    Thanks
    Ron

    Like

  3. Do you mind if I post the Witchcraft pic?

    Like

  4. Interesting post on the Betty Jane, am a bit confused as when I googled info on it after reading your post, it states it was a single seater, yet dual control.
    What am I not understanding here ?
    Ian

    Like

  5. Very nice…….ALL of the airplanes, and the Veterans that flew, and supported them are awesome…..but the P-51 Mustang is my all-time favorite, She is the “Cadillac of the skies.” Scott Brady-U.S. Air Force Veteran.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for taking a peek in Scott, I greatly appreciate you taking the time. Just as you took the time to serve our country! We’ll talk soon.

      Like

  6. What wonderful photos. Always so much more fun to get up close and personal.

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  7. The Wings of Freedom Tour just left my town of Long Beach just a few weeks ago. We are just slightly off their approach to LGB. Once in a while, you can hear the Mustang; I did not hear the bombers this time. I took my kids inside both the Fortress and the Liberator five years ago. Like you, my legs wouldn’t cooperate fully but avoided the “gpcox” dance. I hope are OK. They also had a B-25 back then.

    What is tremendous to realize is that the crew flew at altitude with their sheepskin coats over heated long johns as a best description. These young boys were flying AND fighting at up to -30F at 30,000 feet altitude. The fuselage was wide open; imagine that. Only the B-29 was pressurized. When a crew member had to urinate, they stood by a funnel attached to a tube that went outside but froze on occasion. Did you see that funnel towards the aft?

    Like

    • I am thrilled you have gotten to see them and your children – that’s fantastic! The leg muscle is fine now, thanks, it was only achy for a few days. I must have missed the funnel – too bad. That tour gives us a whole new perspective – doesn’t it! Very glad you liked it, Koji.

      Like

  8. As an artist I’ve always been attracted to the P-51 design. Maybe some day I’ll analyze what it is about that plane. Jim

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    • It would be interesting to hear it from an artist’s point of view. I’m not a professional photographer, which is obvious, so maybe if you were to analyze on-line photos you would get a better perspective.

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  9. Please visit my new blog, hope you like it 🙂

    http://ajaytaobotanicalblog.wordpress.com/

    thank you so much dear 🙂

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  10. The military planes have always fascinated me. I have visited the museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base several times. Thanks for your articles.

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    • Glad to liked it Bev. And happy to see you frequent the museums. I wish we had one nearby, I think our closest is NASA! and that’s about a 5 hour drive from me.

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  11. Lucky you – seeing these aircraft up close and getting to speak to the people 🙂

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    • And that’s exactly how I felt, Eric. The vets were eating up all the attention, but I don’t think they realized just how much they meant to everyone.

      Like

  12. Very cool, last thursday I got to visit the Octave Chanute air museum in Rantoul Illinois and they have a mint rebuilt P-51H called Heatwave which they have a full history of including the pilot who recieved the DSC. I may have to do a post on it soon. I also have a P-51D from the air museum at the U.S.S, Alabama which was flown by one of the Tuskeegee Airmen of the 66th pursuit Squadron..:-)

    Like

  13. What an opportunity to get authentic, primary-source knowledge on these events. And they share it so willingly. I’m on the West Coast and will have to see where they are out here. Thanks, GP.

    Like

    • If you find them, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The men with the planes are eager to talk to you and share their knowledge, a great bunch. Thanks for reading, Jacqui.

      Like

  14. Sounds like a great experience! Can’t believe they’re still flying today. Didn’t know the inside would be that cramped, amazing the things that they would do!

    Like

  15. I’ve walked the interior of a B-17 while it sat peacefully on the ground . I was imagining being in it in the air , in a combat situation . My uncle was shot down in one ( and rescued ) . It’s difficult enough moving in that plane without it rolling around in the sky on its way down , having to jump out , especially for the tail gunner , who had to squeeze into the rear of the plane and would have had to back out . It really is a lesson touring those planes . Thanks for the post .

    Like

  16. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    I wish I was there also…

    Like

    • Thank you, Pierre. Believe me, I was thinking of you, I knew you would have loved it. Maybe one day they will have an exhibit close to the border.

      Like

  17. Pierre Lagacé

    You’re a lucky one!

    Like

  18. Pierre Lagacé

    The caption… Wrong caption

    B-24 Liberator

    The B-24 Liberator begins to tower over you as you near her. It puts you in awe knowing they flew their gallant missions over 70 years ago. And today they continue to fly on a mission to educate and pay tribute. The aircraft that sat before me was the very last flying Liberator in the world today!

    B-17!

    Like

  19. Sounds like a wonderful tour! When I did my vintage flying trip I went to Fantasy of Flight in Longwood. We decided to tour the museum afterwards and were completely floored at the extensive collection of planes and helicopters, many that you could climb in to. There was really a lot to see and do. They also had a tour through their restoration area…which was quite fascinating as well. I would have gone for the museum alone.

    Sadly, they just stopped public tours and are streamlining to become event oriented. I have seen some of these on YouTube and honestly prefer the non-event visits where you can take the time you need to view the majority of the collection. It seems events only have a small selection, demos and a lot of other things that aren’t related to flying. I am so glad I went when I did. Here is the link to the planes in their collection…perhaps one day they will do a touring program as well. http://www.fantasyofflight.com/aircraft/

    Like

    • I can see by the link just how great it is, Mrs P. I’ve heard of the Flights of Fantasy, but never had the pleasure. Thank you for adding the link – much appreciated.

      Like

  20. They visited the local airfield in Nashua NH a few years ago with the B-24. It was pretty impressive to see. It gives you a whole new appreciation for what those airmen endured just flying, let alone being shot at.

    Like

  21. When you consider the cramped conditions, the length of those missions and the fact that, sooner or later during each flight someone was going to be trying to shoot you out of the sky, I think we lose the ability to imagine what it was like.

    Like

  22. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Such excellent post. Reblog …. “It Is What It Is” ….

    Like

  23. Cool aircraft. There are several collections of flyable WWI and WWII aircraft here in New Zealand – one based at Wanaka and another at Blenheim. A couple of months back I was in Napier for their ‘art deco’ weekend, which from my perspective consisted largely of old cars punctuated by overflights from T-6 Harvard/Texans, Spitfires and P-51’s. The Harvards had the radial roar…but there is NOTHING quite a magical as the sound of of a Merlin on full throttle!

    Like

    • Sounds great, if you’ve done a post on them, please send a link for the rest of us. I was just talking to Gallivanta about one museum in NZ. I truly admire the spirit and patriotism of your country!!

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  24. What a great tour..except for your ‘fall’. About a decade ago I had a chance to explore an older style NZ Air Force plane. I can’t remember the type now but what fascinated me was that all the passenger seats were rear-facing, for safety reasons.

    Like

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