"We used to all take a shot of whiskey after each completed mission before interrogation," he said. "After my (last) mission, my whole crew poured theirs into my glass and literally carried me to the train."
But there are ghosts that have followed the combat pilot for well more than a half century. The rear gunners shot and frozen stiff at 27,000 feet ("that's a wake up call"); the flak that came through the cockpit cutting his oxygen mask from its supply ("It didn't scare me then, but now when I think about it - well..."); twice being shot down but making it back to allied territory ("My B-17 was badly shot up with one engine out and low on petrol. The gauges were pegged out at empty and we were running of fumes. The cloud cover was 100 percent and it was getting dark....")
"It never leaves you," he said.
As beautiful as the plane was to see, let us never forget that its original purpose was to kill people and wreck things. Something like 50,000 B-17 crewmen were lost or captured in the attempt.
At least World War Two was necessary for the freedom of Democracy and the world.