Historic B-17 flights being offered to remember veterans

Published: Monday, May 26 2014 6:45 p.m. MDT

The famous Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle this year celebrates the 71st anniversary of the its historic last mission during the Liberty Foundation's 2014 Salute to Veterans tour Monday, May 26, 2014, in West Jordan.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — Sam Wyrouck had just finished spelling his last name when he began introducing his wife.

"That's my wife back there," Wyrouck, 89, said Monday at the Liberty Foundation's 2014 Salute to Veterans tour at the South Valley regional Airport. "We've been married for 67 years."

"We have children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Her name is Eloise," he said.

Wyrouck was 19 years old when he first enlisted in World War II. He was also 19 when he met Eloise, who was training to be a nurse. Two years later, the couple was married.

“Did you know we’ve loved each other for a long, long time?" Eloise Wyrouck said, holding her husband's hand.

The couple reminisced over their love story Monday, as well as Sam Wyrouck's service in the U.S. Air Force as a ball turret gunner in a B-17, after he took a flight in a B-17 with members of the media.

“It’s a very uncomfortable and scary place to be," Sam Wyrouck said. "I flew 35 missions over Germany in that position.”

The Liberty Foundation, an organization that offers B-17 guided flight tours, will be honoring veterans Saturday and Sunday. Utahns have a chance to book a flight and experience what it was like for people such as Sam Wyrouck to fly in a B-17 during the war.

The 30-minute ride will take place on the Memphis Belle, one of only three B-17s still flying today. The fee associated with the flight is what keeps the plane in the air and out of a museum.

"We put some type of mechanism in place to allow people to experience living history — historical flights," said Bob Hill, a volunteer pilot for the Liberty Foundation. "Memorial Day is not all about burgers and beer. It is really a holiday of reverence for those that really sacrificed for our behalf.”

It costs the Liberty Foundation $4,500 per flight hour and more than $1.5 million annually to keep the Memphis Belle airworthy. It's a difficult but rewarding task, Hill said.

"That’s the beauty of a flying B-17," he said. "In this case, you can experience all five senses, and there is a taste to it. … You can’t do that if it’s sitting on a museum floor,” Hill said.

For Sam Wyrouck, the chance to fly again in a B-17 on Memorial Day brought back many memories.

“I saw a lot of good men that I flew with that didn’t come back," he said, "and I think about them."

According to recent U.S. Veterans Associations figures, 555 World War II veterans die on a daily basis. Sam Wyrouck is just one of two crew members left from his time in the war

The opportunity to once again fly in a B-17 was rewarding, he said.

“It kind of gives me a tug right here," Sam Wyrouck said, pointing to his chest. "In my opinion, a B-17 is the most famous airplane ever built."

Email: mcollette@deseretnews.com , Twitter: MirandaCollette

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