THIS PAST week, May 7, 2015, was the 70th anniversary of VE Day, celebrating the end of World War II on the European Front. And, as I write this, a Consolidated B-24J Liberator WWII bomber is passing over my southern California neighborhood. I envision 177 of these aircraft carrying out a single mission, as they did in World War II’s Operation Tidal Wave. And I recall VE Day, 1995, when I watched a friend’s brother doing victory rolls in his restored Supermarine Spitfire above an English village.
This weekend’s flights here in Orange County, California, are part of a national Wings of Freedom Tour, organized by the Collings Foundation, an educational group that sponsors transportation-related events.
Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour, Consolidated B-24J in foreground, Boeing B-17 above it, North American P-51C Mustang up top. This and another image from http://www.hyannisnews.com.
The venue is the Lyons Air Museum, John Wayne Airport, with walk-arounds of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine,” North American P-51C Mustang fighter and the B-24J “Witchcraft.” The flyovers in my neighborhood are with passengers, 30 minutes aboard the B-17 or B-24J for $450; 30-minute flight training in the P-51C, $2200; an hour in it, $3200.
Consolidated B-24J “Witchcraft.”
A B-24J has four Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radials, each displacing 1830 cu. in. (30.0 liters), producing around 1200 hp and heralded by its throbbing to all below. Imagine the might of 708 of these engines powering the 177 B-24Js on Operation Tidal Wave, August 1, 1943, against the Ploieşti, Romania, oil refineries.
Years later, on May 7, 1995, Wife Dottie and I were in England for the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day. Friend Suzie Lamplough invited us to a village fête (“fate,” as the Brits pronounce it). I wore a shirt embroidered for the occasion with crossed Stars and Stripes/Union Jack and the Brit epithet for the WWII U.S. military, “Overpaid, oversexed and over here.”
A highlight of the village fête was when Susie’s brother Robs flew over in his restored Supermarine Spitfire. Already recounted at this website, but worth the retelling, as he did a couple of victory rolls, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. Standing next to me was an elderly man who said, “You know, even after all these years, those machines still terrify me.” ds