Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #144 – Taking Flight

This post is dedicated to the memory of my father and all of the other men of the U. S. Army Air Corps who flew American bombers in Europe and the Pacific during World War II.

When I first saw Tina’s challenge “Taking Flight” my first instinct was to feature the hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies that are flying around my yard right now. But then I thought about my Dad and how he dedicated his life to flying airplanes for the U.S. Air Force. I decided to focus on his story instead.

My Dad grew up on a small farm high up in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. After high school, he left the farm to find work. He had a job installing sprinkler systems which involved traveling to different locations in the U.S.

He was working in Alabama when he enlisted in the Army after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was told to go back to work and he would be notified of when and where he was to report. He was working on a job in Florida when he received his orders to report for Basic Training.

After completing the training the men were rated according to their ability. Dad was rated a Bomber Pilot. After flight training in various places around the country he received his wings in the Army Air Corps.

During World War II he was assigned to a base in Italy where he flew 50 missions flying the B-24 Liberator shown at the top of the page. Dad returned to the states without injury after he completed his 50 missions.

After the war, Dad made the United States Air Force his career. He flew various other airplanes throughout his career including B-52s in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He retired in the early 1970’s after about 30 years of service.

B52 – photo from one of Dad’s old slides

Flash forward to 2002. Dad and I had an opportunity to go to an exhibition which featured a restored B-24. My Dad was a big man and I was amazed at how small the inside of the plane actually was. I could only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to be in that plane for those long missions.

B24 Liberator Cockpit

I’m so grateful Dad and I had that day together. He loved seeing the plane and talking to people about his experiences.

One of few remaining B24 Liberators in 2002
One of few remaining B24 Liberators in 2002

Whenever people would thank Dad for his service he would always say “I was just doing my job.”

WILD BLUE YONDER

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder,

Climbing high, into the sun;

Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,

At ’em now, give ’em the gun!

Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,

Off with one helluva roar!

We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!

Nothing’ll stop the U. S. Air Force!

The U. S. Air Force Song, Updated Official Lyrics 1 May 2020

Many thanks to Tina for this Photo Challenge: Taking Flight. Please be sure to visit her original post at Lens-Artists Challenge #144: Taking Flight

Photo credits: Black and white WWII B-24 Liberator and B-52 images taken by my Dad. All others by me.

Look! Up in the Air!

“Heritage to Horizons: A Century of Airpower since WWI.”  – Maxwell Air Force Base Air Show April 8-9, 2017

From the moment we decided to travel somewhere to see an air show I was like a little kid waiting for Christmas. We studied the schedules of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds and the United States Navy Blue Angels to determine when and where would be the best place to see them. Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama was an easy choice. We could get there easily from Georgia, there was a great campground close to the base, and it would be nostalgic for me to return to a base where I lived for a year when my father was stationed there.

We arrived at Gunter Hill Campground two days before the air show. Both days we heard the planes as they were practicing and I kept looking in the sky to see what kind of planes they were. Both days I was rewarded when I searched the skies and saw four of the Thunderbirds pass right by the campground.

On the day of the show we arrived early so we could find a good spot to set up our folding chairs to catch all the action. We parked ourselves right in front of where the Thunderbirds were lined up. We could also see the French planes of the Patrouille de France.

United States Air Force Thunderbird
United States Air Force Thunderbird

Patrouille de France at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Patrouille de France at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show

The air show was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United States Air Force and commemorating the 100th anniversary of the United States involvement in World War I. There were also historic planes on display.

After the opening ceremonies the show began with the Wings of Blue Parachute Team. Once the performers began it was non stop action all afternoon. From bi-planes performing stunts to the fabulous French team Patrouille de France to a reenactment of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Tora Tora Tora group there was never a dull moment.

Wings of Blue at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Wings of Blue at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show

Red Tails at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show
Red Tails at Maxwell A.F.B. Air Show

Maxwell Air Show
Maxwell Air Show

Re-enactment of bombing of Pearl Harbor at Maxwell Air Show
Re-enactment of bombing of Pearl Harbor at Maxwell Air Show

Wing Walker at Maxwell Air Show
Wing Walker waving at the crowd at Maxwell Air Show

The French team Patrouille de France (The Patrol of France) were performing to honor the special relationship between the air forces of U. S. and France since World War I.

Patrouille de France at Maxwell Air Show
Patrouille de France at Maxwell Air Show

Patrouille de France2
Patrouille de France

Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France

Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France

Patrouille de France
Patrouille de France

Patrouille de France Pilots
Patrouille de France Pilots on their way to sign autographs and pose for pictures

The final act was the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds. Before they began, a group of Air Force recruits were sworn in with their families watching them take their oath in front of the Thunderbird planes.

U.S. Air Force recruits being sworn in
U.S. Air Force recruits being sworn in

Before the pilots climbed into the cockpits their crews performed their pre-flight inspections as the pilots faced the crowd.

U.S.A.F. Thunderbird Pilots
U.S.A.F. Thunderbird Pilots

Thunderbird Pilot waves an American Flag as he taxies down the runway
Thunderbird Pilot waved an American Flag as he taxied down the runway

Takeoff!!
Takeoff!!

Maxwell-Air-Show-Thunderbirds6
Maxwell Air Show U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

Just in case you didn’t get enough of the Thunderbirds, here’s a video of one of their signature formations.

Spending the day enjoying this amazing air show was one of the coolest things we’ve done in a long, long time. If the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels are performing any where near you get out there and go to an air show!