October 16, 2016
On Thursday, Jacqueline and I drove up to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyer's Cave, to see the World War II air show put on by the Collings Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving history. I had been there once before, almost seven years ago. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I was glad that Jacqueline did as well. It's a special privilege to be able to climb aboard those old war birds, and get a sense of what it must have been like to risk your life on a bombing mission over Germany, Italy, or enemy-held territory. Three of the aircraft were the very same ones I saw there before: a B-17 Flying Fortress (bomber), a B-24 Liberator (bomber), and a P-51 Mustang (fighter). For the first time, I saw a B-25 Mitchell medium bomber, which was what they used in General Doolittle's surprise bombing raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. Sixteen of those planes somehow took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet, but not all of them made it to China, where they were supposed to land. Eleven crew members were captured, and three were executed.
Most of the folks in attendance were older, including several veterans, and I had some nice conversations with some of them. One guy has been searching for the crash sites of old military aircraft, including several crashes in the Blue Ridge of which I was not aware. A guide gave us a "tour" of the B-24, explaining the ways in which it was better than the B-17. For example, the belly turret on the B-24 was retractable, unlike that on the B-17; that was safer and made landing easier. (The B-24 had modern "tricycle" landing gear, whereas the B-17 had two big wheels in front and a small "tail-dragging" wheel in back.) I was thrilled to get some video clips of the P-51 taking off, and plan to post it on YouTube soon. While we were driving toward Dayton later, I saw the B-25 Mitchell flying ahead of us, but couldn't get a good photo. Fortunately, it came back along the same flight path about 20 minutes later, and I got some nice, sunlit photos of it.
Friday was the last of the air show, and around noon I heard the distinctive deep rumble of those big piston engines, and raced outside just in time to catch a glimpse of one of the bombers passing Staunton as it left the Shenandoah Valley. The montage below is just a small sample of the photos that I will be posting soon on the the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.