Flying through time: WWII history in Orange
Wings of Freedom Tour
David Bramhall of Phillipston will step into the role of an Army Air Corps officer to reenact the Feb. 3, 1945, mission briefing given to the Army Air Corps’ 379th Bomb Group on the morning of its 275th bombing mission. This is part of Operation Kimbolton 2013/Wings of Freedom Tour being held at the Orange Municipal Airport, from Wednesday, Sept. 11, through Friday, Sept. 13. See “Potpourri” for the details.
A restored B-17G flies toward a camera plane. The upper and chin turrets can be plainly seen. Note the .50 cal. machingun barrels on either side of the nose, as well as the side gunners position.
ORANGE — A re-enactment of World War II bomber pilot mission briefings will be featured when three vintage WWII aircraft anchor a three-day historical event at Orange Municipal Airport Sept. 11 through 13. Over the three days, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the North American P-51 Mustang, along with a Sherman tank and a half track, will be on display.
The public is invited to take walk-through tours and rides in the Collings Foundation aircraft to experience true living history.
To further enhance the educational experience of the aircraft’s visit, a new feature has been added to this year’s “Operation Kimbolton 2013/Wings of Freedom Tour.” A “Mission Briefing Tent” will provide the setting for a reenactment of the briefing given to U.S. Army Air Corps airmen of the 379th Bomb Group which was based in Kimbolton, England.
The 379th Bomb Group flew B-17s from the Kimbolton base to enemy targets in Germany during WWII. At the start of every mission, airmen were briefed on the plans and target for the day. In the Mission Briefing Tent, attendees can experience what it was like for the airmen to get their day’s instructions.
David Bramhall of Phillipston will outline the infamous bombing run to Berlin, which was the 275th mission of the 379th Bomb Group. That day, Feb. 3, 1945, the 379th led over 1,000 bombers from 30 bomb groups of the Eighth Air Force stationed at American air bases throughout England to Berlin. Bramhall has researched the actual mission records and will give instructions as they were given to those airmen over 60 years ago.
To add to the realism, Alex DiSanto, 91, of Melbourne, Fla., is expected to attend. He was the navigator in the lead plane of this mission lead by Col. Lewis E. Lyle.
Local resident Bill Purple of Petersham, who was the lead pilot of a B-17 in the second bomb squadron of that mission, was the 13th pilot in the stream of B-17s to reach Berlin that day. Purple will be at the airport throughout the three days, as he is the “commander in charge” for the event.
The briefing will be held at various times throughout the three days to coincide with visiting school groups, and all attendees are welcome to attend and relive the mission briefing experience.
In addition to the mission briefing, several other elements have been added to this year’s event. A 9/11 commemorative ceremony is being planned for noon on Sept. 11; a pre-1946 carshow is in the works for Sept. 11 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; 1940s musical entertainment will be provided during the day on Sept. 12, and a WWII portrait exhibit will be on display for the three days.
Like last year, a WWII veteran meet and greet will be held throughout the event with over 15 WWII Veterans planning on attending, and attendees can view the military artifact displays and a few other military vehicles.
The briefing tent and other exhibits are free for the public. There is a charge to tour and ride in the planes, which goes directly to the Collings Foundation so they can keep the planes flying and keep history alive for future generations.