Flying Fortress gives veterans a 'sentimental journey'

By Beth A. Birmingham | Aug 03, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham World War II veteran Kenneth Morang of Lincolnville takes in the scenery from the window of a B-17 bomber July 31. He and another veteran were honored for their service with a special flight in the Flying Fortress "Sentimental Journey."

Owls Head — Two local World War II veterans were treated to an extra special plane ride July 31, as Owls Head Transportation Museum gets set to kick off its annual Wings & Wheels Spectacular.

Kenneth Morang of Lincolnville and Arnold Wass of Rockland were greeted by members of the Arizona Commemorative Air Force and boarded the B-17G Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey for the ride of a lifetime.

Morang was a paratrooper stationed in Japan in 1946, but had never flown in such an aircraft.

Wass served in the 45th Infantry in Europe for 15 years, and said he was lucky to be alive and the day's events stirred up a lot of emotions for him.

"A lot of young men got killed over there," he said, using a handkerchief to wipe away tears as he got ready to board the plane.

His son, Dwight Wass, and daughter-in-law, Valerie Wass, were along to make certain the 94-year-old veteran did not miss the opportunity.

"We got the call on Saturday that he was chosen for the trip to honor his years of service," Dwight said. He had also taken his father on a Maine Honor Flight journey two years ago.

"He just loves to fly," he said.

"This just gives me goose bumps," Valerie said.

The authentically restored aircraft, one of only 10 B-17Gs still flying, dropped more than 640,000 tons of bombs during its battle days. Almost 13,000 such aircraft were produced from 1936 through 1945 -- 8,000 of those were lost in combat.

A prototype of a 1935 bomber, the aircraft's wings span 103 feet and it is nearly 75 feet long. Its top speed is 287 miles per hour, with a cruising speed of 150. Back in the day, the tight interior quarters accommodated two pilots, a bombardier, navigator, radio operator and five gunners, along with up to 13 machine guns and 9,600 pounds of bombs.

The plane is part of the Flying Legends of Victory Tour conducted by AZCAF based in Mesa, Ariz., and is maintained and operated by volunteer crews as a flying museum.

"We saw a lot of these come down," Wass said of his active duty days.

Flight crew member Ed Buckles said he had heard many a story from the veterans they have given rides to.

"I get choked up," he said.

Buckles, who gave the preflight safety instructions, said ear plugs were available on the plane, but suggested for the full experience one might opt not to wear them, and he was right.

From the smell of the fuel to the view through the openings in the bomb bay floor to the rumbling sound of the 65,000 pounds of metal hurtling down the runway, one could only imagine what it must have been like being shot at high in the sky.

And on a sunny, 75-degree day, going 160 miles per hour at 1,500 feet was bearable. But with no heat, flying much higher and faster in the dead of winter, soldiers wore heated suits to keep from freezing to death.

The 20-minute trip took the veterans and a small group of media personnel over Penobscot Bay, with great views of the Rockland Breakwater, the Camden Hills, and the numerous islands that dot the bay below.

For Wass and Morang, gazing out over the scenery brought back thoughts of days gone by. "This was much more enjoyable," Wass joked.

And when the wheels screeched the tarmac, there was an almost eerie moment of silence with all aboard seemingly awed, relieved and grateful for all those who served our country in such a fashion.

At the conclusion of the flight, Capt. Anthony Anger shook both the veterans' hands and made sure they approved of his landing.

"Thank you for the privilege of letting me take you for a ride," he told them.

Anger, whose father was a World War II veteran, said the feeling he gets when he takes others for a ride is historical for him.

"It's an honor and a privilege, and amazing to me that we can do this for our greatest generation," he said.

The B-17G is one of several aircraft scheduled to participate in the museum's Wings & Wheels Spectacular Aug. 5 and 6. Also featured will be a large display of assorted classic, vintage and antique vehicles. For more information about the event, visit the transportation museum's website.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Arnold Wass of Rockland, a World War II veteran, seems to be reflecting on things as he boards "Sentimental Journey" for a special flight at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
World War II veterans Kenneth Morang, left, and Arnold Wass pose moments before boarding the B-17 Flying Fortress "Sentimental Journey," in the background. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The view from aft -- looking at the bomb bay of this World War II bomber. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Where the radio operator would be sitting if the clock were turned back to World War II. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Veteran Kenneth Morang takes in the interior view. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Arnold Wass gets ready to board the "Sentimental Journey." (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
One of the bomber's several machine guns. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Front and center, a lone seat for a gunner. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Looking into the cockpit of a B-17 bomber from aft. In between is the bomb bay, where missiles were dropped from doors in the floor. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (2)
Posted by: Shirley A. Allen | Aug 03, 2017 17:26

Mr Wass,So happy you got to have the ride of your life!!!Don't know if ya remember me or not,but Dwight and my brother Ronnie Walsh,grew up together!I'm Shirley.You look great!~Memories~God Bless,xx



Posted by: Sandra Schramm | Aug 03, 2017 12:41

Bravo OHTM and the  Flying Legends of Victory Tour conducted by AZCAF based in Mesa, Ariz.

Wonderful memories for two deserving Veterans!

 



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