Winning wings in Orange
War planes draw admiring crowds
The P51 fighter plane takes off between the propellers of a B24 Bomber during the Operation Kimbolton 2013 World War II commemoration running through Friday at Orange Municipal Airport.
Sitting up front in the navigator’s seat of the B17 is Jake Lyman in Athol.
The waiting crowd is seenthrough the gunner's window of the B17 after landing at Orange Municipal Airport Wednesday.
Spectators visited the Orange Municipal Airport Wednesday to see B24 Bomber and other planes used during World War II.
Darcy Brown of Brown Motors in Greenfield stands at the gunner's station in the B17.
ORANGE — As the 68-year-old Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress war plane touched down at Orange Municipal Airport, hundreds of onlookers packed together against the chain-link fence, holding onto their hats with one hand and waving small American flags with the other.
In its early days, this 36,000-pound plane once carried soldiers in World War II. On Wednesday, the Flying Fortress and two other war planes attracted residents from western and central Massachusetts who wanted to see or hear them first-hand.
Among them was Frank Grincewicz, a 88-year-old veteran and Gardner resident who wanted to look upon the plane that “brought the Germans to their knees.”
His neighbor, Michael Franklin, drove Grincewicz to the event. The two often talk about the war and look at photographs, and Franklin was eager to see the planes for himself.
The sound of the planes’ engines persuaded Brian Carroll, a Northfield resident, to come to Orange.
“(I came) to hear the music when the birds come in,” he said. “We’re lucky they can keep this old stuff flying. ... There’s a lot of people here that weren’t alive when these things were flying, myself included.”
The arrival of the three planes — the B-17, the Consolidated B-24J Liberator and the North American TP-51C Mustang — from Pittsfield Wednesday afternoon marked the start of “Operation Kimbolton 2013.”
It’s the second straight year that the Collings Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom” national tour made a stop in Orange. The planes and war tanks will be on site through Friday morning with various history-themed events occurring over the next few days.
Event organizer Cindy Hartwell, whose father Vincent “Bill” Purple spearheaded the effort to bring the planes to Orange, said that they ramped up publicity for the event this year.
Organizers also incorporated more subtle historical details like a mock on-site “air traffic control tower” that played 1940s music with occasional news bulletins with updates about the war. To pretend it was London during the war, organizers brought in re-enactors to lead staged “mission briefings” and erected a sign that pointed to cities (arrows for Athol, Bronx and Memphis all faced the same direction).
Carole Labshere, an Orange resident for 25 years, attended last year and couldn’t wait to see the planes again.
“It’s worth every second seeing them. They’re just awesome,” she said. “It just brings a chill when you see them coming in and landing.”
Families traveled together to Wednesday’s event. Hunter Hines, a 10-year-old Hubbardston resident who said he loved to compare old planes with the ones used today, attended with his grandfather Roger Provencal.
And John Field, a veteran of the Korean War, made the drive out from Clinton with his niece, Rachael Epstein. Field’s older brother and sister-in-law, Epstein’s parents, both served in World War II.
“She made a remark that kind of stuck with me. She said, ‘I’d like to see it through your eyes,’” said Field. “I was around when we were using these things. ... It’s just a wonderful feeling, just to sit there and listen to them.”
It was just coincidence that the first day of the event fell on the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said Hartwell.
But the timing was appreciated by many, including Orange resident Debbie Higgins.
“I’m just proud to be here. I’m proud to be an American,” she said.
Orange held its annual memorial ceremony at noon on Wednesday, with Orange Fire Chief Dennis Annear leading the proceedings. About 50 uniformed firefighters and policemen from the North Quabbin towns stood on a grassy mound in front of the airport while Annear thanked them for their service and played a series of patriotic songs.
Grincewicz, the Gardner veteran, said he believed people had more of an interest in events like these because of the 2001 terrorist attack.
“We never thought that anything like that would happen here,” he said. “Years ago, we were never worried about that stuff. But (the terrorist attacks) hit as close to home as you can get.”
For a full list of today and Friday’s events, go to www.flyore.com.
You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264