NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Although the number of surviving veterans from World War II is dwindling, those who remain still have some amazing stories to tell. Two local veterans shared their amazing stories with News Channel 5 anchor Rhori Johnston.
It has been nearly 70-years since the end of World War Two. On Tuesday, local veterans Glenn Hale and Dick Harris reminisced about their time spent and their deep admiration for a specific airplane: the B-17 bomber. Both men also got the chance to climb aboard and relive a bit of history, flying in the "Memphis Belle" a replica of the famous World War Two B-17 bomber.
For Glenn Hale the dates of that past are easy to remember.
"We flew our first mission on December 29th of 44," said Hale.
Hale was a young B-17 pilot, flying bombing raids in Europe. His third mission, over Hamburg Germany, was almost his last. A downed bomber just missed his plane. On another mission, his plane came under heavy ground fire.
"And I thought 'we've had it, we're goners.' But the pilot just danced that crippled plane around like he was jitterbugging!" explains Hale.
That close call was 67-years ago. Hale escaped. Dick Harris wasn't as lucky. The B-17 he was piloting over Germany in November of 1944, was shot down.
"We all jumped. Everybody got captured. Everybody got imprisoned. Everybody got home. Which was a great blessing," said Harris.
A blessing Harris credits, in part, to the aircraft itself. Dubbed the "Flying Fortress" Boeing's B-17 was a big success in part because of its durability.
"It's a good, good aircraft. It could take a lot of damage and still deliver you home," said Hale.
"You get it off the ground, it just lifts up like raising a feather," said Harris.
The last time Dick Harris flew on a B-17 was 1951, but on Wednesday he was able to take flight over the Smyrna airport once more.
"They fly today just like they did then. Wonderful airplane," said Harris.
Glenn Hale hopped on board for the next flight and said this beautiful relic of a bygone era serves an important purpose.
"So much history in this aircraft, and all the aircraft that are still flyable. And if we can carry the message to our younger generation, I'd like to help in that endeavor," he explained.
The "Memphis Belle" is owned and operated by the Liberty Foundation. Public flights are available this weekend at the Smyrna airport.