B-17 “Liberty Belle”

(Posted: June 14, 2011)

In one of the chapters of my book, I tell about my good fortune to be able to sit in the ball turret of the
B-17 “Liberty Belle” when it was at Prior Aviation in Buffalo, NY. The reason that my Mother and I wanted to see the B-17 was because we had previously ridden in the B-17 “Fuddy Duddy” but we never got the chance to see it take off from the ground as there was only one flight that day and we were lucky enough to be on it. It is the most exhilarating experience to listen to the four engines on these old bombers start one by one. We’d felt the excitement riding in the magnificent plane but now we wanted to watch it take off from the outside. I also wanted to walk around and study the inside of this beautiful machine. I managed to accomplish that three times. In talking to a kind gentlemen who was with the “Liberty Belle” group, I mentioned my Dad’s position on the bomber during WWII. He told me to wait a moment and he’d be right back. He came back all right…with tools to open up the ball turret so my Mother and I could see the inside of it. It was great! And it got better when I asked if I could climb inside and he said I could…not only did I climb inside but I asked him to shut the door so that I could get as close as I could to how it must have felt for my Father to be cramped in that lonely turret..me for moments…him for hours at a time; me under 5’…him 5′ 8″; him with the gun sight…me without it. The day was more than I could have ever hoped for and I will never forget it. I could not have been more grateful to the “Liberty Belle” group.

I, also,…and this is not in the book…have ridden in “Liberty Belle.” It was my second ride in a B-17. (My first was in “Fuddy Duddy.”) In “Liberty Belle” I was very fortunate to have a seat behind the Pilot and Co-pilot in the cockpit. When I called to make arrangements for the ride, the kind gentleman that I talked to told me he was going to give me the best seat in the house. I had proudly told of my Father’s role on the B-17 and explained the amazing day that my Mother and I had previously experienced. I couldn’t wait for this flight! I proudly wore my Dad’s army shirt and I took a log book that he kept that told about the stops that they made in a B-17 on his route to England and gave a copy to the Co-Pilot. I knew that “Liberty Belle” was going to be reenacting the same stops later in the year, which I thought was great. I was envious of anyone who was going to be fortunate enough to man the crew on that historic flight.

The reason I’m telling you this is because I have heard the sad news that “Liberty Belle” had been grounded a couple of days ago for mechanical problems. Having been returned to service this morning, she took off from a Chicago suburban airport. The pilot had to make a forced landing in a corn field after a fire had started. Fortunately, everyone got out unharmed! The “Liberty Belle”, a national symbol of the price of freedom, is tragically destroyed taking a toll on many who loved and appreciated what she stood for. She carried on the memory of owner, Don Brooks’, Father, as well as the men like him who flew as crew members of the B-17. Seeing the pictures of the broken ship and the flames and billowing smoke, brings to mind footage of similar tragic scenes from days gone by. “Liberty Belle” may be destroyed but WE WILL NEVER FORGET!

 

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  10. Fred Rhoda says:

    Candy: You will never belive this, but the Foto of you walking away from Liberty Bell — Look at the Man beside the Door, with shorts on. That is Dave B. from Sandusky, he was crewing the day you were there , he he he. What a sight that was, the two of you in the same Foto.

    Dave’s dad served in Liberty Bell also, what history the two of you can share ! Have fun with this 🙂

    Fred

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