Flying Fortresses, P-51 fighters. B-25 bombers and a fleet of World War II aircaft are due to touch down at Branson Airport Sept. 13-17.

It’s the Commemorative Air Force that flew the hostile skies over the Pacific Theater and the European invasion of the war fought by this nation’s Greatest Generation.

While many of today’s youth may not be up to speed on these vintage aircraft that won the war against the Axis powers of Germany, Japan and Italy, they might be blown away by the early engineering and primitive electronics that guided these aircraft.

Young and old alike will be able to tour the Flying Fortess with paid admission. That alone should inspire this area’s youth to explore aviation, engineering and maintenance of today’s supersonic, stealth birds.

These 1940s planes flew at subsonic speed across vast areas of the Pacific Ocean to land on a speck in the middle of that oceanic vastness with little more than a compass and a sextant to navigate by the stars at night.

Bombers were equipped with a pilot, co-pilot and navigator. They also carried a bombardier, tail gunner, nose gunner and belly gunner.

Keep in mind that these crews were made up primarily of young 18- to 21-year-old men who were part of a fledgling Army Air Corps. They came from Iowa farms, New York’s Bronx, California’s surf towns and points in between. They took chances. They flew, often, beyond the aircraft’s capabilities.

Lt. Col. Jimmie Doolittle (later promoted to general) was joined by 16 volunteer B-25B bomber crews to launch a retaliation raid on Tokyo. The significance of that April 18, 1942 raid was that Doolittle’s Raiders combed the Japanese capital after launching from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier within five months of Japan’s strategic bombardment of the Naval and Army Air Corps bases at Pearl Harbor.

Families should use this opportunity to teach children about these aircraft, not only as weapons of a mid-20th century war, but also the advances in aviation since these planes were flown.

For information log into or contact the Branson Airport. Rides in these airplanes will be available for a fee. It could be an opportunity of a lifetime!

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