WHAT A RUSH
What a Rush!!!!!
The magnetos were crackling as the four engines shook the plane, straining in the pre-flight checklist. I tested theradio. Dead, as if it hadn't worked in 50 years. To my left front I counted the 1000 lb. bombs, hanging lifeless straining to be set free. Then, eyes burning from exhaust, a catch deep in my chest, without warning we were moving. A tense look at the only other crew member I could see. I had had bumpier jeep rides. We were airborne, banking left the four props cutting a path. Sun in my eyes. Didn't even notice the landing gear come up.
The crew chief was at my side, signaling to take my position on the starboard waist gun. As we leveled off at 1500 ft. I was awed by the sight of the villages below, un-named, like subdivisions. We were banking left. I steadied myself, gripping the 50 cal tighter, flipped up the sun shade and searched the highway below. The locals called it I-24E. I called it Hwy. 9 W. Coming from the North, a convoy, in my sights. My thumbs stabbed for the butterfly, not there!! no response!!! Dead on its mount, as if welded by the mechanics of time.
Another signal from the crew chief. My turn in the nose. It wasn't like it used to be. Walking the "V" shaped aluminum pathway above the bomb bay, hardly wide enough for both feet, 1000 pounders hanging on each side, I had to turn sideways and suck it up to get through. On my hands and knees I squirmed between hydraulic lines and was suddenly hanging in the sky. 2500 ft. of air beneath me, the nose bubble!!!, and as I stood I looked sideways through the blurring props and into #3 engine. Above me was the escape hatch. A clear bubble of plastic as if it was the top of the world. I had to look. Relieved!!! No migs, 360 degrees of pure blue sky. As I looked back, like God looking down was the pilot, copilot beside him. Still alive. They looked old enough to go at any moment, but not this moment.
A shudder at my feet, around me, through me. A few feet more and I was in the bombardier's chair. Swiveling, I laid down. It was no longer blistering hot. The vent hole in the nose. A hole in the plexiglass was rushing cool soothing air at me. I clutched my 1st Bn 40th Arty hat under my arm as I spotted a factory. Dead ahead. The crosshairs in the sight focused on center roof. I was flying the plane. Damn!!!!, if only the bomb bay door motor was working. We were deep in the North. Flying with grace. I guess some from God and some from Beauty. Fading Antiquity in a Sentimental Journey described it best.
The flight back to the field was more the fantasy of a soldier returning home. Trying to sort this flight from others long past. Thinking of those long above us. Of those yet to come under us. And, of those all around us, day by day, year by yearrrr....., trailing like the wisp of vapor off the wing tip. Faces forming, voices, more alive than when we lived together, not knowing each other, not wanting to know. But, trying to live, trying, trying, trying...
Touchdown, gentle. Like it was a dream and not a B-17 Flying Fortress, the "Sentimental Journey". And not like a war long ago, today.
As I step from the plane, again I don't want to leave it behind. And again I won't. Cause my old dreams are what I am and my new dreams are what I'll be.
If only every one I knew were still here. I wonder if they still dream with me?
I guess it will seem more real when the $350.00 charge for the 45 minute B-17 ride at the air show in Smyrna, Tn. hits my bank account.
What a rush,
All For One,