France honors a long-ago ally
Medal ceremony part of return of WWII planes to Orange
Orange Police Officer Clay Rushford in Military Police garb admires the B24 Bomber with two veterans that flew in them. Bill Purple of Petersham was a pilot and Robert Crosby of Erving, right, was a mechanic who kept them flying.
ORANGE — Get ready for planes, tanks and automobiles from the 1940s. For the second straight year, the Orange Municipal Airport will serve as the site of a World War II “living history event” this week.
“Operation Kimbolton 2013” will kick off on Wednesday with the arrival of three World War II airplanes. It will end two days later with a pilot who flew one of those planes receiving a French military medal of honor.
Vincent J. “Bill” Purple — an 89-year-old Petersham resident who has spearheaded the effort to bring the Collings Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom Tour” to Orange — defended France during the war. Now, nearly 70 years later, he’ll be honored for his service during a special closing ceremony at the airport on Friday at 11 a.m.
A friend submitted Purple’s name for consideration to the French Consulate last year, said his daughter, Cindy Hartwell. A French consul general will be on hand to award Purple the medal.
“He will be recognized for when he bravely led squadrons of bombers containing hundreds of men over France at the young age of 20,” Hartwell said. “And what better place to receive the Legion of Honor Medal than with one of the last few remaining B-17 Flying Fortresses as a stunning backdrop to the occasion?”
Last year’s event was originally going to be a one-time thing, said Hartwell. But organizers were delighted by a turnout of almost 3,000 people and decided to host the event again this year.
It begins with a 9/11 commemorative ceremony at noon on Wednesday.
The planes will arrive about an hour later and will be open to the public to explore. Viewing sessions — which cost $12 for adults, $6 for children and is free for World War II veterans — will occur on Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
People interested in reserving special rides on the planes can call 800-568-8924 for more information.
Anyone that has a pre-1946 car can drive it over to Orange by 5 p.m. on Wednesday for a car show that evening.
In an attempt to set the mood, music of the ’40s will be played on loudspeakers during the three days, said Hartwell.
World War II veterans will be on hand to talk about their experience and re-enactors will display artifacts and stage a “briefing mission” at various times throughout the three days.
Amherst native Chris Demarest, who spent his summer painting at Amherst’s Jones Library, will display 35 to 40 of his war veteran portraits. He’ll paint on site throughout the three days, Hartwell said.
A World War II Dinner Dance, taking place on Thursday, has already sold out.
For the full schedule, go to www.flyore.com.
Greenfield’s Brown Motors is the event’s main sponsor. Other supporters include Athol Savings Bank, Atlas PyroVision Productions, BETE Fog Nozzle, Brookside Equipment Sales, Fiske-Murphy & Mack Funeral Home, the Franklin County Sherriff’s Dept., Grrr Gear, Higgins O’Connor Funeral Home, Jumptown, the L.S. Starrett Company, Orange Oil Company, Rodney Hunt-Fontaine Inc., Trailhead and Witty’s Funeral Home.