Friday, March 09, 2007

Liberty Belle

Buddy Cantu and I took a trip back in time yesterday afternoon, courtesy of the 309th Bomber Group.

We flew in a restored Boeing B-17-G bomber.
It was amazing.

The strategic bombing of German manufacturing and refining capacity in 1944 and early 1945 were essential for the success of the D-Day invasion. Once air superiority was achieved over Europe, the end of the war was just a matter of time. The B-17 was an integral part of that story, because the raids completely demolished the Nazi ability to wage war.

The 390th Bomber Group flew over 300-missions in WW-2--dropping over 19,000 tons of bombs. 179 of its aircraft were lost, with a total of 378 enemy aircraft destroyed, 78 probably destroyed, and 97 damaged.

The 390th garnered many commendations and a reputation for bombing accuracy that was reported to be the best in the 8th Air Force. The Group’s aircraft losses the lowest per mission flown/bombs dropped.

This weekend, a piece of history will be in the skies over Texas, with the 390th Group’s Liberty Belle B-17-G bomber paying a visit…and offering you an opportunity to capture the nostalgia of this magnificent war bird.

Buddy Cantu and I had the honor of meeting Don Brooks, a member of the Board of the 390th Memorial Museum, as he flew the Liberty Belle into Houston yesterday for a weekend round of warbird flights for the public. With only 14 B-17’s still flying, this was a special event.

Liberty Belle is especially significant to Brooks: his father was a tail gunner on the original B-17 dubbed Liberty Belle, based out of England. The restoration of this airframe was re-named after his dad’s plane. Imagine flying an aircraft your father fought in.

Brooks has spent the past 14-years and $3-million dollars making the ship airworthy.
She is a work of art.

Many men have passed through the hatches of this B-17; they're all veterans of other flights in other planes. This airship never actually saw combat. Everywhere Liberty Belle has flown, she has drawn the curious, the nostalgic, the appreciative.

Many of them have left their names behind on the inside surfaces of those portals, even guys the B-17's fought against. I noted a German flyer, Hermann Hoppe, left his moniker on the inside of the rear hatch on one visit.

Liberty Belle is providing warbird flights this weekend out of Hooks Airport, in Tomball, north of Houston.
Call Scott Maher at 918.340.0243 for arrangements.

If you're reading this from afar, Scott will also be able to tell you where else you may next see Liberty Belle.

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