Crew Reunites With Flying Fortress

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Photo: EAA

Photo: EAA

Ten World War II veterans, age 89 and up, all of them former B-17 crewmembers, went for a flight in EAA's Boeing B-17G Aluminum Overcast on Monday afternoon, in Oshkosh, Wis. Chris Henry, who helps coordinate the annual B-17 tour for EAA, came up with the idea. He called it a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. "A plane that was built for war has brought these veterans and families together for such a special occasion," he said. "It's very gratifying to be able to help make this happen." The 10 veterans, all of them Wisconsin residents, represented each of the 10 crew positions on the airplane, from pilot to bombardier to tail gunner.

"Itís just wonderful," said Capt. Bob Abresch, 92. "I love the airplane. It had a great record, was nice to fly, and very well built." Weather threatened to postpone the flight, but just after noon a window opened up and the flight took off, and fire trucks welcomed the return with a water cannon salute. "I really enjoyed that," said Maj. Robert F. Schneider, who had been a bombardier during the war. "Haven't been in that old bird for 70 years." Bob Schuh flew 35 missions during the war, as a tail and waist gunner. "I was scared every mission," he told the local Journal Sentinel. "When I went up I never knew if I'd come home." Capt. Abresch told the Sentinel the sound of the four B-17 engines took him back to the sounds and smells of the cockpit during the war. "Years ago I could crawl in and it seemed to be pretty roomy," Abresch said. "It seems smaller now."