Menomonee Falls, MI
As a college student in my hometown of Oshkosh, WI, home of the EAA, I enrolled in the “Civilian Pilot Training Course”, at the ripe old age of 20! My instructor was none other than Steve Wittman, of “Bonzo” and “Chief Oshkosh” fame, as well as being the eventual namesake of the airfield that the EAA now calls home.
In 1942 I enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, eventually flying as a bombardier with the 305 BG (H), 364th squadron, assigned to the U.S. 8th Air Force. After flying our B-17 (F) to England, via the great northern route, we found ourselves based out of Chelveston England.
On November 26, 1943, the day after Thanksgiving, we had just dropped our load on the FW-190 final assembly works in Bremen Germany, when FLAK and fighters took their toll. We lost two engines and fell out of formation. After being picked on some more, we got the “bail-out” sign and we hit the silk. Everybody got out of our ship alive, but we would learn later that our engineer/top turret gunner did not survive the jump. After hitting the frosty ground, we were picked up by some of the Luftwaffe’s finest, and spent the first night in the Oldenberg City jail. From here, I was sent to Stalag Luft “I”, in Barth Germany, to serve out the remainder of the war.
Back to Civilian life, I remained an active member of the reserves, and retired as a LTC in the USAF, after 30 years of service.
It was 58 years after that fateful day, in November 1943, when I would hear the roar of those powerful Wright Cyclone engines of the B-17, and feel that familiar thrill of taking to the air once again. This 78 year old was on board the “Aluminum Overcast”, the EAA’s B-17 (G), which graces “Steve Wittman” regional airport during the annual convention in Oshkosh.
This was a thrill beyond compare for me and it brought a tear to my eye as my mind traveled back those many years. The smell of that exhaust and the deafening noise brought back the faces of my crew, and I was 22 years old again, and on my way to Bremen.
Thus, the complete circle of flying for me, then and now, was accomplished!!! I was finally able to finish my “one-way” trip started so many years ago!!! On this historic occasion, my son was along for this flight! It has been a life-long dream of his to fly along side his Dad, on the “Flying Fortress!!!” He was thrilled with the experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our 40 minutes in the air “together!!!”
My flight on “Aluminum Overcast” caused so many wonderful memories, of my flying days, to flood back. It was truly an emotional experience, and on that I would highly recommend for all to enjoy!!!