The timeless beauty of the B-17.
In Praise of the Old Warbird
Many of my childhood memories include many trips to
airshows. So many fond memories. Seeing the old T-38s of the Thunderbirds
during the in the early 1980s, seeing many aerobatic performers, and the
countless military jet demonstrations still are still vivid in my
memories. Often bringing a smile to my
face when I think back. Especially
seeing the old, venerable F-4 Phantoms at an airshow in Miami that I can still
feel the rumble of those engines in my chest cavity.
I always feel a special place for the old war birds. Seeing a flight of P-51s purring as they fly
by, so graceful and elegant. As a child,
I loved watching the older documentaries about World War II. G.I. Diary, and the World at War come to
mind. Not too many choices those days,
but I would watch, transfixed by the gallantry and bravery.
Of course, as a child, I did not comprehend the horror of
the war. The grotesque mutilations that
were taking place, not clearly visible in these documentaries. The old grainy, black and white footage never
seemed to capture this. Still, I was
fascinated. The sacrifices of these men
made were impressive and awe inspiring.
The funny thing, today I feel the same exact way. I often ask myself whether or not I would be
able to have even a fraction of the bravery these young men demonstrated.
When I watch an old P-40, P-51, the occasional Corsair, or
any war bird for that matter, I see more than an airplane in the sky. These machines are beyond metal framework,
powerful engines, or machine guns. They
are instruments of death, designed to deliver bombs that would not discriminate
who they would kill or destroy. But these
are more than an old airplane.
They are symbols.
More than an airplane zooming in the sky, or resting in a museum. They are symbols of the bravery of the men
who flew and fought. They are symbols of
the dedication of the women who would test and ferry them, and those who worked
in the factories to produce these weapons of war. In spite of the death and destructive
capability, I see the enduring sacrifice far too many young men and countless
civilians made. Sometimes I see video or
photos of a bomber going down, wondering even after decades later, whether the
boys made it out. Sometimes, the damage
was too severe, and all members of the crew were lost. The sense of loss still makes me reflect on
what might have been.
I love our history, and have a deep appreciation for the men
and women in uniform. I love the
military, and am proud of what they work and stand for. I hate war, and lament the lessons we seem to
loose from the wars of our past. Perhaps
one day we can learn to avoid fighting as a first response to conflict. Perhaps…
I can only smile as I stand, watching an old P-47
Thunderbolt or a B-17 Flying Fortress sputter, and belching smoke as the engine
starts shaking the aircraft. Eventually,
the engines smooth out and the sound is seemingly beautiful. Smooth and graceful, yet full of power. It is an incredible sight and sound, and
always sends shivers throughout my body.
I teem with excitement and almost burst with pride. In my eyes, I see the symbol coming to
life. Much more than just an
Let the B-17 Flying Fortress love-fest begin. Other bombers may have been able to carry more payload, but the B-17 was the face of the daylight bombing campaign in Europe. What a lady.
A battle worn lady.