So, There I was…..* At home, Holy Saturday, having just finished reading Sarge’s post on the subject, I’ve gone out to my workshop to find some interesting method of turning beautiful wood into sawdust. I’ve decided my method of choice today will be the table saw and have happily commenced operations.
Sawdust is accumulating at a satisfactory pace when I hear, above the table saw I might add, the hum of an aviation engine. Now, this is not an altogether rare occurrence, as my property is about 5 miles from the local airfield and is just north of a Military Low Level route. I’ve got airplanes flying over my house with great regularity.
Included in that Aerial Activity is a guy flying a Stearman and another guy flying a Pitts Special. One or both perform aerobatics over my house pretty much every Sunday. I’m expecting them any minute. Not sure if I feel tormented by those two, or envious. I think the answer is “Yes”. But, as usual, I digress.
To recap, I’ve got an aircraft within aural range of my workshop. That’s certainly enough justification for me to take a break and step outside for a look see.
So I do.
Just in time to see a P-51 come buzzing by about 500 feet in the air. Close enough to see the red stripes on the tail as well as determine that it is a P-51C, given that it does not have a bubble canopy.
I race back into the shop to grab my camera (AKA my phone) and by the time I get it disconnected from my speaker system and back outside, the picture I take is of a small speck on a cloudy gray background.
Not wanting to have my veracity in telling these stories questioned, I wait around for quite a while hoping for a recurrence, alas, it was not to be.
Shortly after this, my Son and Daughter-In Law come driving onto Rancho Juvat, intending to spend Easter Weekend with us. My Daughter was also home for the Holy Day. It was a great time, but I’ve already used my one authorized digression per post, so I’ll continue on with the story. Little Juvat gets out of his car with a brand new camera (not a phone) complete with one of those long lens thingies that make things look up close and personal.
I asked him where he was 15 minutes ago. When I needed that.
I tell him about the P-51 and ask him if he’d like to go to the local airport and see if it’s there.
So, off we go…
So, we drive to the Airport. As we’re approaching, we see a Huey take off. Not an unusual occurrence, although this one has Marine markings. Come on to the Airport proper, and see a B-17 and a B-24 parked on the ramp. Seems the Collings Foundation is in town.
Alrighty then! This is going to be a great day!
We pay the requested donation of $12 per person and walk in.
Underneath the right wing of the B-17 stands a guy and as we're walking around looking at the wing, he asks if my Dad flew these. Now, while I'm ancient in my children's opinion, I'm not that old. I say "No, why?" He tells me his Uncle had flown them in the WWII.
I say "Oh?" , feeling that there's more to the story. He tells me he's just finished a book on his efforts to find the remains of his Uncle, his crew and the aircraft. They'd been shot down over Europe.
I told him I'd buy a copy but only if he signed it.
There'll be a book review and rating using Sarge's new and approved rating system shortly. I figure anybody who's willing to spend 14 years looking for a relative lost in combat is worth spending a few bucks to support. Besides he was pretty affable.
Book in hand, we decide we're going to climb through the B-17. Suffice it to say, B-17's could not possibly have been crewed by large men. There were several spots that my slim, svelte figure gave me concern on whether I'd be able to exit the aircraft. "That guy stuck over there? Picked him up in Juvatville two weeks ago. Another couple pounds and he'll slip right on out of there."
Once inside the front hatch, getting to the Bombardier's compartment would have been comparatively easy.
While the view from there would have been spectacular, I'm not sure I'd want to be up there with flak going off all round.
Next up we poked our nose in the cockpit.
|Who knew it was that advanced? With GPS even.|
I didn't realize that the Bomb Bay was directly behind the cockpit. Which kinda surprised me, as that meant if anyone other that the Pilots, or Bombardier and Nav needed to come up front, they had to cross it, via a very narrow path.
|My son's thinking "Wish this Bald Guy would get out of the shot"|
|I don't know if the V was original equipment or Collings Foundation had added it. But that was a TIGHT fit.|
Behind the Bomb Bay is the Radio Room and Upper Turret. The upper turret was so small my shoulders were touching either side. Additionally, the turret was in the stowed position, facing aft and the glass looking that way was very bad. Cracked or scratched. Between that and the thing with the shoulders, we didn't get any pics.
Further back was the Ball turret.
It's always difficult to get dimensions from a photo. So....
That's a size 10 shoe. These guys were small and could not have had a shred of claustrophobia. Oh, and while this was called the Ball Turret, I think it should actually be named the Balls Turret, because, well, you know.
Finally we get to the Waist Section.
But, Juvat where's the other Waist Gun? I didn't realise this until we actually went on board, but because of the tight spaces, the guns are staggered. That would allow the gunners to maneuver and shoot without bumping into each other. Pretty smart, those Boeing Engineers!
BTW the "Seats" are Collings addition. You can purchase a ticket to ride in one for only $432 each. I was sorely tempted.
|This could be You. (or me)|
Behind this was the tail gunner's compartment. Unfortunately, it was filled with crew equipment and parts, so was unaccessible.
Exited out the rear door, a much more knowledgeable and appreciative man.
|"Nine-O-Nine was a Boeing B-17G-30-BO Flying Fortress heavy bomber, of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, that completed 140 combat missions during World War II, believed to be the Eighth Air Force record for most missions, without loss to the crews that flew it." Source:|
Next Week the Liberator