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World War II bombers land in Ogden, help keep memories and history alive

Published: Monday, Sept. 19 2011 5:58 p.m. MDT

Inside of a B-17G, available for tours at the Ogden Hinckley Airport in Ogden on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

OGDEN — The B-17 Flying Fortress "Sentimental Journey" and B-25 Mitchell "Maid in the Shade" from the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum are on display in Ogden this week, and the public can experience flying in these aircrafts first-hand.

For pilot Jim Kimmel, getting to fly the B-17G gives him a closer feel for what his father went through as a B-17 pilot.

"I've flown this airplane with my father three times with him at the controls," he said. "That's payback enough for me. I mean, how many people can say that they flew with their father in the aircraft that their father went to combat in?"

The 1944 "Sentimental Journey" is only one of several restored, flying B-17 bombers in the United States. Only a handful of these rare birds are still flying in the world.

Kimmel volunteers his time for several months each year to help keep the memories and history alive. The mobile museum draws plenty of onlookers, including veterans like Ray Hobbs, a former B-17 pilot.

"When you hear the plane, it's just as sweet as Beethoven's symphony to hear those engines," he said.

For Gunther Stoecke his memories come from another side of history. He comes all the way from Berlin to volunteer each year. He still remembers having his hometown bombed as a child.

"There was no hate for anyone, I only know the Americans as friends," he said. "I remember the Berlin airlift that saved us. During this time, the Berliner learned to never take freedom for granted."

Getting to hear those stories and share them with others is what Kimmel says makes all his donated time worthwhile. If people can continue to learn from the past, he said the future can continue to look brighter.

"We're not trying to glorify war, we're trying to honor the veterans who participated in World War II and made those big sacrifices," he explained.

Maintaining these bombers is not cheap, costing about $2,500 a day. Volunteers do it, both for the veterans who are still around and for the younger generations who can learn from the history behind it.

The mobile museum makes stops all over the United States to give people a rare look at pieces of aviation history. The war planes will be in Ogden until Sunday. The cost for a flight on the B-17 starts at $425 per person, for the B-25 it starts at $395. The planes take off in the early morning, and then stay on the ground for people to come see afterward. After that, the flying museum will be at the Vernal Regional Airport.

Email: manderson@desnews.com

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