Aluminum Overcast Flight at Long Beach
by Jack Lee's Daughter, Linda Brown
Hello Wally! How are you doing? I hope this note finds you having a good day. I am sending you a hearty hello and a salute of respect. Why? Because Mom and I just went flying in the Aluminum Overcast (the EAA B-17 on tour), and the experience gave me a renewed and healthy respect (not that I didn't respect you already!) for all you "flyboys" and what it must have been like in combat for you.
We flew out of Long Beach on Saturday, April 12, 2008 under beautiful, clear, warm, blue skies. Not cold gray skies filled with flak and fighters and who knows what else like you and Dad did.
I was looking forward to it, but was very nervous while waiting our turn to board. I don't fly much and I get motion sick easily. But board we did, and I took a seat at the right waist gunner position. The feel and sound of those magnificent engines revving up, and the squeaks and groans as the plane got into position for take off were a great "drum roll" to heighten the anticipation.
Mom brought one of Daddy's lucky gloves he saved from the War. As we lifted off the ground, I held on tight to the glove and let out a loud "Ohhhhhh Daddy!" What a thrill! Suddenly I felt nothing but excitement. As soon as the pilot gave the thumbs up, everyone was out of their seat and checking out the plane and the view. I explored throughout the plane and thought about of the young men who manned each of the crew positions.
Unlike this joy ride, I tried to imagine the discomfort, anxiety, and frantic action going on inside during one of your missions. The noise I was experiencing must have been ten fold for you at times, what with the guns and open windows and all. I admit I intentionally did not wear earplugs, because frankly I love the sound of those engines! I looked down at the ball turret with horror. Squeezing through the bomb bay I visualized them open with some poor guy trying to kick loose a stuck bomb. Down in the bombardier's seat, I remembered Dad telling of the crew's bombardier, Gordon Courteney, and got an idea of why Gordon used to put magazines up to block the view (of the flak).
I spent most of my time behind the pilots. Wow. I got a dry mouth from letting it hang open in awe the whole time. I looked out the front and left, and thought of the stories my Dad told me of what he saw out those windows. I stood transfixed staring out at the right engines, and as we banked and circled around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, I could see the shadow of the plane down below, surfing along on the blue Pacific. I felt like I was hanging on to the back of a gentle, giant bird. I felt like I was visiting my Dad one more time. It felt good.
All to soon it seems, we got the signal to sit down and prepare to land. Nuts. More! I wanted more! Let's go around again!! It was a thrill I will never forget. I am so very glad there are still some of these grand old B-17's still around, and the men willing to fly them full of giddy tourists like me.
So hats off to you and all the 398th boys !
My Daddy's daughter,