NH WWII Pilot Gets Wish for Final B-24 Flight

Discussion in 'Stories' started by vikingBerserker, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/09/25/us/AP-US-Buried-Wings-Final-Flight.html

    NH WWII Pilot Gets Wish for Final B-24 Flight

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Published: September 25, 2009
    Filed at 2:46 p.m. ET

    MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- World War II pilot Bernerd Harding feels he has finally completed his mission -- 65 years after his B-24, nicknamed Georgette, was shot down over Germany.

    Harding, now 90, flew 30 minutes Friday from Laconia to Manchester aboard the Witchcraft -- the last B-24 still flying. He sat in the cockpit.

    ''It was fun. It was worth it. It's history,'' he said after landing.

    The last time Harding flew a B-24, he was a 25-year-old first lieutenant piloting a bombing run to Bernburgh, Germany. On the way back, fighters crippled his plane, forcing him and his crew to bail out. Harding spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.

    Harding said he felt his mission -- his 14th -- was incomplete without one more landing and Friday's was ''close enough,'' he said.

    Harding is just back from Germany where he searched unsuccessfully for the pilot's wings he buried in a cellar after his capture.

    Harding's B-24 was shot down a month after the D-Day invasion of Normandy on July 7, 1944. One member of Harding's crew was killed. The others -- including Harding -- were taken prisoner.

    Harding landed in a freshly cut wheat field, barely missing a barbed wire fence. Three farmers, two with pitchforks and one with a gun, captured him and herded him into a cellar in Klein Quenstedt (klyn KWEN' -shted). Fearing reprisals from villagers for being a bomber pilot, Harding buried his pilot's wings in the cellar floor.

    Two weeks ago, Harding returned to Klein Quenstedt to search for the wings with villagers' help. He didn't find his wings but a villager gave him a silver bracelet recovered from the body of a dead American airman that day. The bracelet belonged to Jack H. Glenn and is being returned to his sister in Anchorage, Alaska. She plans to send it to a museum in Texas where Glenn grew up.

    Harding, who is being treated for prostate cancer, had another quest besides the wings: a final flight in a B-24.

    Friday wasn't Harding's first time inside the Witchcraft. He toured the bomber about 10 years ago with his grandchildren but didn't fly in it, so this time it was a treat.

    ''He says, 'I'm making my last landing in light of the cancer,''' said his wife, Ruth, 84, a passenger during the ride. ''What a gift.''
     
  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Great story!
     
  3. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Nice account VB. I thought that 'Witchcraft' was one of three B24's still flying, the Collings Foundation B24J 'All America' being one, and a B24D the other, name of which escapes me?
     
  4. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Maybe the last one in England?

    Regardless....wish he could've found his wings, but glad he got to finish his mission! :salute:
     
  5. Pong

    Pong Active Member

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    I'm with syscom, great story!

    Actually there are three airworthy B-24s in the World according to Wikipedia. Witchcraft, Joe in Florida, and Ole 927 of the Commemorative Air Force in Texas.
     
  6. Vic Balshaw

    Vic Balshaw Well-Known Member

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    Love a good story and this one though disappointing over not finding his wings, it has a happy ending for Bernard.

    :hotsun: :hotsun:
     
  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Cavanaugh's site says Ole 927 is one of only two flying in the world. Two...three...still sad to see the numbers so low. BOOK-A-RIDE - B-29 / B-24 Airplane Rides
     
  8. Bucksnort101

    Bucksnort101 Well-Known Member

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    I beleive Witchcraft is the same bird as the All American and Dragon and his Tail. Collings Foundation seem to like to paint the B-24 every so often, but keep thier B-17 in the same paint scheme.
    I may be wrong about Ole 927, but isn't it the CAF plane that toured as Diamond Lil in a Corporate Configurations and now returned to wartime specs?
     
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