Rumbling down Runway 8 at Bob Hope Airport in a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress was not just another item on my bucket list. For all on board, it was a unique opportunity to experience the physical world in which thousands of young American fliers of every ethnicity, background and region courageously fought their war. Many had only seen an airplane from afar; few had ever flown in one.
Christened Liberty Belle, with flight markings of a sister aircraft that was severely damaged and lost two crew members on its 64th mission, the airplane's preservation is the dedicated effort of Don Brooks, whose father Elton flew on the original Liberty Belle. Built at Lockheed in Burbank, the Liberty Belle's present-day mission is one of reacquainting the younger generation of Americans with the courage and sacrifice of those who risked their lives in the skies over Europe and in combat theaters around the world.