Fly Day set for June 14Published 12:46am Sunday, April 20, 2014
It is becoming a good weather season and the Lawrence County pilots are eager to get into the air again. Remember Community Fly Day will be June 14. The local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association is hosting a Young Eagles fly day on Friday.
The youth are from Russell High School ROTC. Surely there are organizations of young people, 8 to 18 years old in Lawrence County, who would like to take a free ride in a small plane. We can handle groups up to 20, but we are not equipped to handle one or a few at a time. E-mail me at email@example.com if you are interested.
The remainder of the column deals with the diary of Tom Stevenson, a member of Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation. It is a first person account of his experiences flying the B-17 Flying Fortress out of Foggia, Italy, during World War II.
“I was scheduled for an other mission today, the 24th of June, but it was changed to to a non-operational day. This morning I went up on a practice mission and made bomb runs on Foggia, throwing our chaff also. Cicconi and I changed seats while in formation and I landed the plane and it was a good landing. My first in a B-17 from the pilot’s seat since leaving the States and on a steel mat.
“I believe I will be scheduled tomorrow. They are sending about 10 percent of the men home every six weeks, so that isn’t too bad. Maybe I will get to go home too someday. I got five V-mail letters today from Dad, Grandmother and Brother Bob. I guess mail will be coming pretty regular now.
“I went on another mission to Sete France on the 26th and it was a milk run. Thank God.
“June 27th. What a terrible mission today to Budapest, Hungary. It was one heck of a raid and I hope I never see another one like it. Flak was everywhere and it was so darn accurate, that I expected it to get us any minute. Our ship was hit time and again. There were 50 holes in the plane when we got back. Two pieces of flak came close to getting my left waist gunner, Paul Obermeier.
“A piece came up on each side of him but he didn’t get a scratch. Another burst lifted Archie (Archbold) right off the floor and glanced off his helmet. Then a burst knocked out the prop feathering motor on Number four and another piece went half way through a main gas hose. There were holes all through the wings, tail and fuselage. How we came through it alive and without losing an engine, I will never know. In addition we almost rammed another plane, two them in fact. We miss one by 5 feet and another by 10.
“That scared me more than the flak. Ships were being knocked out of the formation on all sides and we came in with only half the formation and was so late that we had been given up for lost. We came back over enemy territory at 135 mph and at 14,000 feet. I really did feel great relief when the coast was finally sighted.”
Don Lee, a pilot flying out of Lawrence County Airport since 1970, has been in charge of equipment and grounds maintenance for the last several years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org