Sunday, June 25, 2006


Standing amidst wide-eyed children and scores of military veterans, this intrepid pacifist and peace activist ventured to Bowerman Field in Hoquiam on Friday to get a rare opportunity to explore two pieces of our nation's military history. For a mere $8, I was able to stand inside a B-24 & B-17 "Flying Fortress".

Named "Witchcraft" and "9-0-9" respectively, both aircraft were here in the Harbor as part of the Wings of Freedom touring exhibit.

While I'm fairly certain many of the older veterans came to see (and re-live) part of their own personal histories, I went in memory of Gregory Peck AND as a favor to my dad (who lives in Bend).

One of my favorite movies growing up as a child was Twelve O'Clock High. Made in 1949 on the heels of WWII, it starred Peck as Brig. Gen. Frank Savage. One of the important messages of this movie is that -- unlike so many other films of the time -- it did not glorify war. In fact, a great deal of the plot had to do with the terror most crewmen felt at flying these bombers over Germany.

Standing next to the ball turret, I could easily see why the men assigned to such planes were terrified. Aside from freezing off their gonads in temperatures nearing -40 F, they were sitting ducks for any stray bullets that might happen to fly by. In fact, one of the many aspects of both planes was how thin the metal covering appeared to be. It seemed like one could easily poke a hole with nothing more than a .22 rifle.

Another interesting aspect was the crampness of both planes. Standing outside of both, they looked rather large. However, once inside, I felt like I was trying to turn around in a VW Beetle. I can just imagine the claustrophobia some of the flight crews must have felt.

For me, the best part of my experience was getting the opportunity to see both planes land and the B-24 take-off. For a scant moment, I felt like I was in England or the Pacific Theater.

While I abhor war and violence, I made this brief sojourn because I'm a student of history. For good or bad, the US took part in WWII. I relished this opportunity to stand face-to-face with this history.


  1. A Bendite!? Kewl. Next time you're around, stop by the community radio station and say hi.

  2. A few years ago I was lucky enough to have a B-24, a B-17, and one of the remaining B-29's fly almost directly over my house on a Saturday afternoon, it was quite a sight and sound, effectively drowning out any and all ambient noise. The men that flew those plane had to have been brave because there was no way to escape detection with that engine noise.

  3. a few years ago I went aboard the replica of the Memphis Belle that was used in the movie. The B 17 was known as the flying fortess. As you noted, once inside, fortress was the last adjective I would use. My father was a WWII pow and his friend was a D - day beach comber. Vietnam destroyed my cousin. I too have agreat interest in these things, not as weapons of war, but as what those that fought had to endure. Often the reasoning escapes me...


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