ITHACA, N.Y. — A piece of living history touched down in Ithaca last week — a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane.
The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport’s annual Airport Community Day was more eventful than usual this year, with the arrival of the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress named, “Aluminum Overcast.” It’s a four-engine, World War II bomber plane made in 1945.
Ithaca Voice Videographer Jacob Mroczek interviewed pilot Rex Gray about the history of the aircraft and the people who flew them. (See video below)
Standing before the plane, Gray said, “This is what we call a living history exhibit.” He said the airplane “turned the tide” of World War II. While more than 70 years ago the plane was used in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of World War II, today its official mission is to promote aviation. Along with that, Gray said his mission this weekend was also to share the history of World War II and honor the veterans of that generation.
Gray said the B-17 would have 10 crew members, six enlisted and four officers. And those 10 people were mostly teenagers.
“So they’re flying this airplane, which was the biggest, baddest airplane of the day, carrying 4,000 pounds of bombs flying over enemy territory being attacked by enemy fighters and flak,” Gray said. “At the beginning of the war, those guys, they didn’t have to worry about doing 25 missions because after eight missions they were either dead, injured, or captured, or missing in action. That’s how bad it was.”
(A note about the gallery below: click any image to see a larger version of the image and a slideshow)