Hope everyone had a great weekend!  I got to see something awesome this weekend, and lucky for you I took a bunch of photos!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that both of my grandfathers served in WWII.  My grandpa on my mom’s side was part of a B-17 bomber crew who flew many missions during the war.  There are only thirteen B-17 Flying Fortresses that are still airworthy, and it just so happened that this past weekend one of them made a visit to the Jefferson City airport, which is only about a half hour away.  So, my mom and I hopped in the car and headed down to see the plane, and hopefully get a little bit better of a taste of what my grandpa did and what his experiences were like during the war.

Wow!  It was really awesome to see this plane up close and personal!  I’ve heard lots of stories of what it was like to fly on a B-17 crew, but to be able to actually get inside and crawl around, and see the tight spaces that the crewmen worked in was really amazing.  See that sphere shaped thing on the underside of the plane?  That’s the ball turret, and one of the gunners sat inside.  There is a trap door in the floor of the plane, and the guy would shimmy down in there and operate the gun on the bottom of the aircraft.  The sphere rotates so that he could aim the gun in all directions.  I’m guessing they chose the smallest, least claustrophobic guy for that job.  Can you imagine?!  We were told that sometimes it would get stuck and the guy would have to stay inside until the plane landed.  There’s sure not a lot of clearance there…

The rear interior section.

One of my grandpa’s jobs to operate the radio, so I’m sure he spent some time in this chair.

Here’s a view inside the cockpit.  Now, I’m no aircraft expert but I can imagine that the planes in today’s military fleet are quite a bit more technologically advanced.

Here’s where the bombardier sat – in the nose of the plane, which is actually a big window.  The bombardier is the guy who lined up the bomb sight, pulled the trigger and yelled “Bombs Away!”  The B-17s were equipped with the famous Norden Bombsight, which was extremely accurate at bombing from high altitudes, and it was one of the most closely guarded secretes of the US military during WWII.

From what I’ve heard, my grandpa’s crew flew a bunch of successful missions, but also had some really close calls.  There were times that their plane got hit and they basically limped back to the base.  They were never really sure they were going to make it until their tires touched down on firm ground.  Scary.

I’m kind of fascinated with all the stories of bravery that I’ve heard about from this time in our country’s history.  There’s a pretty good movie, called Memphis Belle, that tells the story of one B-17 crew and their final mission.  It’s Hollywood’s interpretation of the story, but it gives a pretty good depiction of how thing were.

But, if you want to hear a REALLY good story read Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.  It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned WWII soldier.  Zamperini was a crewman on a B-24 crew during the war, and I won’t spoil any of it, but I can tell you that his story is full of bravery, the will to survive, and HUGE amounts of forgiveness.  What a man!  Unbelievable.  Read it, you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, I’m officially putting it on the 1canoe2 required reading list.  Karen and Beth…go get your hands on a copy and start reading.

:: Carrie ::