Saturday, July 26, 2014

Touring a bomber, with memories of flying one: Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport (KGFL), Queensbury, Warren County, New York

QUEENSBURY -- The B-17 bomber “Sentimental Journey” picked up an extra crew member for its weeklong visit to Warren County airport.

 The vintage plane travels the country with a crew from the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum and will be open to visitors Saturday and Sunday before departing on its next mission, a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Earl Morrow, a 93-year-old Hartford resident who piloted B-17s in World War II, is spending the week giving airport visitors a more thorough experience of the bomber.

“They see the airplanes, but they don’t know what the boys who flew in them went through, what they know,” said Morrow, who was a pilot for American Airlines for 30 years after the war. “They go through the plane, and they want to know what is what like to run one.”

Morrow, who was wearing a crisp long-sleeved shirt, khaki pants and a ballcap that said “U.S. Army Air Corps,” was more than happy to tell visitors about the plane, including details of his 17th flight, when he and his crew were shot down and sent to a German prisoner of war camp.

“We were there six months, and they made us leave the camp during a blizzard, because the Russians were coming and they didn’t want to get caught,” Morrow told a group of tourists standing near the plane Thursday morning. “A lot of guys couldn’t make it. I tried to collapse in the snow, but someone came over, hit me a couple times and got me up.”

He wound up in a camp in Nuremberg, Germany, which was later liberated by Gen. George Patton.

Morrow had wanted to join the military after Pearl Harbor, but his father was on the draft board and insisted he go to college. When he turned 21, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

Even some of the veteran members of the plane’s crew were mesmerized on Thursday by Morrow’s stories.

Morrow’s daughter, Jessica Brand, who splits her time between Hartford and Indiana, kept her father hydrated and fed and tried to get him to sit down on occasion.

“But there are people here, I want to talk to them,” he said at one point.

“It’s not like they’re going to fire you,” she said.

Kristin Purcell, the plane’s loadmaster, said it has been a pleasure having Morrow around.

“He’s having a great time,” she said, sitting at the souvenir booth Thursday. “He just going up to people and asking if they have any questions.”

For a few minutes, Morrow stood still, looking at a copy of a photo of him and his crew.

“I had a good bunch of boys,” he said, picking them out by name and talking a bit about each one.

Thirteen years ago, Morrow, bombardier Sam Lisica and navigator Jerry Silverman gathered for an interview with Hudson Falls teacher Matt Rozell.

Lisica and Silverman have since died.

“My father is the last one left,” Brand said. “And as far as we can tell, he is the last one left from his high school graduating class.”

Morrow was a Boy Scout with Hartford Troop 40 and the valedictorian of the Hartford Class of 1939. He’s planning to be around to tell his stories for at least a few more years, he said.

“My father made it to 96, and I want to get past him. Then I am going to try to get past 100,” he said.

Story, Photos and Video:


The interior of the World War II B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" is seen from the front gunner's seat Monday, July 21, 2014.

Spectators watch as the World War II B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" pulls into the Warren County airport Monday, July 21, 2014. 

Arlington airfield dedicate to Wesley Schierman: Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO), Washington

ARLINGTON — The Black Jack Squadron's Missing Man formation that flew over the Arlington Municipal Airport July 21 was itself missing one of its most important men.

The pilots were paying tribute to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman, one of three founders of the squadron in 1990, who died Jan. 4.

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert was joined by Schierman's widow, Faye, in cutting the ribbon to the sign dedicating the airport's historical airfield to Schierman.

"Leadership, is action, not words," Tolbert said. "Today we will dedicate the Arlington Airport to a man whose actions exemplified his leadership."

Schierman's long career in aviation included stints not only in the Air Force and Washington Air National Guard, but also as a commercial pilot for Northwest Airlines.

He was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam from Aug. 28, 1965, to Feb. 12, 1973, before retiring from active duty in 1974. Likewise, by the time he retired from Northwest as a Boeing 747 captain in 1995, he'd logged more than 15,000 flight hours.

The Black Jack Squadron, which Schierman co-founded, is a formation flight demonstration team, whose pilots volunteer to fly Missing Man missions for fallen Pacific Northwest veterans.

During his memorial at the Boeing Museum of Flight, Schierman was lauded as one of the four strongest leaders of the 400-plus men residing at the Hanoi Hilton.

"But to know these things about Wes was to scratch the surface of this remarkable man," said Tolbert, who first met Schierman three years after he and his partners had founded the squadron. "As a budding pilot, I was both intimidated and in awe of the flying skills displayed by this group."

Tolbert credited Schierman and his fellow Black Jacks with seemingly never turning down an opportunity to honor a departed military member or aviator with a Missing Man formation.

"The collective actions of one's life is the legacy that they leave behind," Tolbert said. "It will be an honor for me to fly at Major Wesley Schierman Field, dedicated to a man who loved family, country and freedom."

Faye Schierman had little to add to Tolbert's remarks, except when she looked up and saw the Black Jacks overhead.

"When you see those airplanes flying, that says it all to me," Faye Schierman said.

Original Source:

The Arlington Municipal Airport's historic airfield is dedicated to retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman by Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert and Schierman's widow, Faye. 
Photo Courtesy of Kirk Boxleitner