Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sentimental Journey

Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to go see an original B-17 bomber. I had to drive a few miles to get there, but it was completely worth it. I had a dual purpose for visiting. One, I'm a World War II buff, of course, and I've always loved the movie Memphis Belle. I'm currently reading the memoir of the pilot who flew the real Memphis Belle. Two, my main character in the novel I'm currently working on is a B-17 pilot. I thank God I was able to get some honest-to-goodness primary research done.

The name of this plane is Sentimental Journey. Built in late 1944, she was too late to see action in Europe, and instead was sent to the Pacific Theater for the duration of the war. Now, she is a flying museum and part of an awesome project by the Arizona Wing CAF Aircraft Museum. You can read about the museum's history and how this plane was restored to its original glory here.

Without further ado, here she is:

And of course, the pin-up girl is the famous Betty Grable. Here's a little interesting tidbit. Betty was pregnant when she had this picture taken, thus the reason why she's peeking over her shoulder!

Look at those engines.

Now this position would have left me in a cold sweat - the ball turret gunner. This guy had to get into this tiny ball underneath the plane. One thing is for sure - he had a great view of the action.

Here's the cockpit where the pilot and co-pilot were. It's cramped.

The radio operator sat here - look at that swell radio!

This is where the bombs are stored - the doors are open and you only have this tiny walkway to get from one end of the plane to the next. If you've ever watched the movie Memphis Belle, you can see one of the characters making this treacherous walk mid-air.

Here's another view of the plane - you can see how cramped it was. I didn't have a chance to get a lot of good pictures of the inside because 1) I ran out of memory in my digital camera and 2) there were other people taking the tour at the same time. If I could have had an hour to myself in there, boy...I would have really been able to look at everything to my heart's content.

This is one of the waist gunner's machine guns. There were two men in this position. Look at those bullets.

This is the nose of the plane where the bombardier and navigator sat. It's pretty cramped, too.

And of course, here is the tail gunner's position. I couldn't get back there to take a picture - we weren't allowed - but it is another cramped spot, too.

I got to see the plane take off and land since, if you were lucky enough to have $425, you could actually take a ride in it. Unfortunately, I didn't have $425 on me (ha!).

Definitely a worthwhile experience, and it only cost me $5. The gas to get there was more! But I wouldn't have missed this opportunity to see a part of history and try to get a sense of what the crews of these amazing planes went through.

For a schedule of where the Sentimental Journey will be headed next, click here.


  1. Hi, Melissa

    Great pictures. Sounds like a sentimental and a very interesting journey you had. I didn't know that about the famous Betty Grable photo, that she was pregnant. Great post!

  2. Very nice! I have to make a confession that I have never been able to work up much interest about military aircraft -- much to the surprise and sometimes chagrin of people who know I was in the Air Force and assume that I've flown in them all :) I wish I could have let you take my place at all of the air shows I've been to -- OR, if you'd been my tour guide I'll bet it would have been more interesting for me. Your enthusiasm clearly shines through and these pictures are great!

  3. way cool, Melissa. I'll have to send Sean the link for this post as he's quite interested in WWII planes (well, in pretty much ANYthing mechanical, come to think of it *g*) Glad you had such a good outing :)

  4. Wow--seeing these kinds of things is sobering and exciting at the same time.

    Incredible what they charge for a ride!

  5. Very interesting stuff.
    Those guns and bullets sure
    make me shiver when I think
    about the damage they would've
    done. Ugh!


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