WWII bomber planes share their 'sentimental journey' at NTRA

By: Allison Harris Email
By: Allison Harris Email

DENISON, TEXAS -- There are only nine still flying.

"I mean how many people can say they fly in a B-17 for a living?" Commemorative Air Force B-17G Crew Chief Troy Smith said.

The heavy, strategic bomber defended our nation from the sky during World War II, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft.

"They're at 30,000 feet, it's 50 below zero, people are shooting at them and the bad guys are good shots," Commemorative Air Force B-17G Pilot Russ Gilmore said.

"They sent 300 of these out on a mission and only 150 come back," Smith said.

Now, these volunteers with the Commemorative Air Force are honoring those veterans on this "Sentimental Journey."

"We want to keep their memory and their valor alive," Gilmore said.

We were in the navigator's seat: a front row seat back in time to 1943, when this version of the B-17 entered into service.

There's something below in the bomb bay, that's especially meaningful: signatures from soldiers who flew during World War II.

"I'm a war veteran. I was in Afghanistan, so when I talk to these veterans, we cry together. We talk together," Smith said.

Smith remembers one in particular who asked him to leave a dollar in the plane for him.

"He said my buddy didn't come back and this is my way of paying him back. And we cried for quite a while together," Smith said.

"They knew that the odds weren't with them and they went anyhow and did the job, I mean, just, it brings a tear to your eye," Gilmore said.

Tears shed in remembrance, seventy years after this historic plane flew in combat as the fortress in the sky.

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