Three bombers that brought the war to the Axis enemy during World War Two are making stops in the New Bedford area September 12-14, 2007.
The 18th Annual Wings of Freedom Tour will open for tours as an airborne living history museum Wednesday through Friday (September 12-14, 2007) at Sandpiper Air at New Bedford Regional Airport. The touring aircraft consist of a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, and a B-25 Mitchell.
The non-profit Collings Foundation of Massachusetts owns and maintains the aircraft and sends the aircraft on a 130-stop tour this year.
Of the thousand-plane raids of B-17 made deep into Nazi Germany during World War Two only nine aircraft remain flying. The tour’s B-24 is the only one of its kind still in the air. And it was the B-25 flown by the Doolittle Raiders who struck Tokyo only a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor which launched the United States into World War Two.
The B-17 “Nine O Nine” and the B-24 “Witchrcaft” heavy bombers are available for once-in-a-lifetime 30-minute rides at a cost of $425 per person. A 30-minute flight aboard the B-25 “Tondelayo” medium bomber is $400 in the front fuselage and $325 in the waist gun section of the plane. For flight information or to make reservations, call the Collings Foundation at 1-800-568-8924.
Tours of the grounded aircraft run $10 donation for adults, $5 for children under 12
The aircraft appeal to young and old and always attract World War Two veterans who share their own experiences.
B-17 bombers were inadvertent participants in the Pearl Harbor attack when a flight attempted to land, unarmed, during the attack. Later, the rugged B-17 was to become the country’s best known bomber of World War Two. It was the Eighth Air Force, which flew B-17 missions over Fortress Europa, which was the military organization to suffer the highest number of battle casualties in the war, bar none.
The B-24 was used by all branches of military service and, with its long range capability, was especially helpful to the Navy in extending air coverage all the way across the Atlantic, closing a gap where U-boat wolfpacks previously lurked with deadly effect.
The B-25s that flew off the aircraft carrier Hornet to raid Tokyo in 1942 were in fact sighted and reported by enemy vessels. The mission was successful not because the Japanese didn’t know it was coming, as is commonly believed, but because their timing was off. The Japanese knew the Americans were coming, but didn’t know that the Navy was launching Army B-25s at their maximum possible range, not shorter range Navy bombers. The result was that Doolittle’s raid caught the Japanese unprepared. The effects of the raid were relatively minor, but the impact on American morale after months of losses, was immeasurable. The raid also pressured Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto to decide on the next phase of the war, an attack on Midway Island, north of Hawaii, that resulted in a diastrous defeat for the Japanese Fleet which never recovered.