This week is very special at the Asheville Airport. The Wings of Freedom Tour is here with a B-17, a B-24, and a P-51. I’ve seen a B-17 before but I’ve never seen the other two. These aircraft helped defend freedom and if you get a chance you should go and see them. Here’s three reasons.
1. They Won’t Be Around Forever
These airplanes are rare. They’ll wear out eventually and be parked in a museum where I will be thrilled to go see them. Sadly, bad things happen to them. Not that long ago one crashed. While they’re coming to a city near you go and see them.
2. Honor the Men Who Flew Them
These planes—and thousands like them— flew thousands of missions during the Second World War. They were crewed by brave young men, many of whom never made it back. By going and seeing these you will honor their sacrifice.
When I went to see the B-17 I was stunned by how small it was. It’s a big plane, but I’d imagined it would be bigger. Suddenly I realized just how small and vulnerable the men must have felt up in the sky. They faced many threats— anti-aircraft fire, enemy fighters, weather, mechanical problems, even getting lost.
B-24s flew from Florida to North Africa and on to Ploesti in Romania to attack German oil refineries. The attack was vicious for both sides, with the bombers coming in at low altitudes and their gunners conducting duels with the anti-aircraft gunners. This is only one example of the risks these men took.
This is also a moment to mention the late George McGovern. Before he began his political career he flew thirty five missions in a B-24 Liberator out of Italy. I read an account of McGovern’s experiences—and others— in Stephen Ambrose’s The Wild Blue.
We must never forget.
3. Go See A Piece of History
These planes are historic. The War was seventy years ago and they’re not making any more of these. The B-17 was the first modern multi-engine bomber. The B-24 was one of the most mass-produced bombers in history. The P-51 was one of the reasons we won the War. It was also the plane flown by the famous “Red Tails,” so if you saw the movie go check out the plane.