MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - It’s a piece of history that brings back memories to those who witnessed it first hand. The B-17 Flying Fortress is a World War II bomber that was used in Europe towards the end of the conflict.
“People need to be reminded of what their predecessors in this country have done to earn them the freedom that they have," Laing said. "And it seems that it’s very easy to forget. They need this and other ways to do that.”
Over 12,000 B-17 Aluminum Overcast planes were built and for those who served during World War II, being able to see a part of history again takes them back.
It will be on display this weekend, November 9-11, to the public at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
“You’ll have people come up to the airplane in a wheelchair and they’re really quiet," James Laing, B-17 Volunteer Pilot. "And they’ll come up and they’ll touch the airplane and they’ll start crying. Or they’ll sit here and they’re lost. And then you start drawing out of them what happened. ‘Well I bailed out here and I had to leave my buddy.’ And you have their children who are older than me, you know. And their grand kids and their great grand kids and here’s grandpa and his wife who you know got married on a leave or got married just before he went off to war when he was 17, 18 or 20 years old. And many, many times, I think Rich would agree, the family has never heard the details.”
During the years of 1939 - 1945, many 17 and 18-year-olds were leaving home for the first time to serve overseas. Now, more than 70-years later, those who served are seeing the B-17 in a more tranquil setting.
“It just brings it back. And then that’s the other thing…they get in the airplane and they’re 18 again. It’s amazing," Rich Taracka, B-17 Crew Chief said. “I had a guy yesterday in his 90s. His agility just amazed me. He got up to the front of the airplane like he was 50. It was quite impressive.”
For the man who’s flying the B-17 now, he doesn’t take his job for granted.
“It is really a privilege and a blessing. I am so blessed to be able to do this,” Laing said. “There’s a romance about it. But it’s not a romantic time. But when you start to get into the lives of the people that did it. People will come out and share, here’s dad’s diary. I had a pastor of a church that had 50 missions. Early in the war, 25 missions, if you survived, you got to go home. Then they were losing so many they went oh now you gotta go 35 missions. Now if you’re flying places that were less risk, each mission only counts for half a mission. It’s just a complete walk through time."
The historic plane will be at 1250 Airdrome Avenue, Myrtle Beach, SC 29557 until November 11.
All active duty military, veterans and children 8-years old and younger can tour the plane for free. Tickets for adults are $10, you can also schedule a flight.
For more information, call 920-371-2244 or visit https://www.eaa.org.