From my previous post, you know that I visited the Sarasota Airport when the historic World War II airplanes, the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and P-51 Mustang Fighter were in town. I chatted for quite some time with a World War II veteran, Bill O’Brien, who told some interesting stories of his years serving our country. He returned from World War II as a combat-wounded infantryman and became a four-sport letterman — track, cross country, basketball and baseball at Central Normal College, renamed Canterbury, in Indiana. When he was no longer able to run, he poured his passion into bowling and carried a 172 league average well into his 80s. Always looking for thrills, he celebrated his 85th birthday with a tandem jump out of an airplane. Although turning 89 in 2014, he is still quite active. Bill bowls weekly in a bowling league and is writing a book, “Life of a Dogface – World War II Infantryman,” which he hopes to have published in 2014. While telling some amazing stories about the beaches of Normandy, he turned around, pointed to the B-24 Liberator and said, “Although I was in the fox hole, I always had a dream of being in the B-24.” He is one of six still living out of 120 in his unit.
What a thrill it was for me to visit a piece of history recently. The B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator and the P-51 Mustang Fighter, all World War II iconic airplanes, were on display for public viewing at the Sarasota Airport. Not only did I see and photograph them, I hopped on board to see the cockpit, the machine gun turrets, and bomb bay. There were several older gentlemen there, all World War II veterans, who remembered these planes and told some amazing stories. For the thrill of a lifetime, some World War II buffs actually climbed aboard for a hot ride in these historic machines.