Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Saturday, 2017.12.16
Success is a journey, not a destination.

2006.06.13

Aluminum Overcast

Growing up in the 1960’s, the events of WWII were a mere 25 years in the past. It seemed like ancient history at the time, but now that those events happened more than 60 years ago, both age and experience have given me a different understanding of times’ relativity. Its easy to understand why my brothers and I had a strong interest in that particular war. WWII was more recent to us than the Vietnam war is to the kids growing up today. We did the outward kid stuff like playing soldier and building models of ships, tanks, canons, aircraft – virtually all manner of military equipment was of interest.

But we knew more of the history around the arsenals we built. Certainly more so than the kids today. Our kid play involved re-enactments of the Battle of the Bulge, Anzio Beach and the Ploesti Oil Raid. We knew the history of the Desert Rats and the 8th Air Force. In that respect, it wasn’t play. We taught ourselves the details of an important time in world history and in doing so gained a lasting appreciation of war and its effects. That a man could die in battle wasn’t such an abstract concept. We didn’t have the Game-Over-Reboot-Start-Again filter.

My greatest interest, my speciality even, was aircraft. No detail was too small or insignificant to commit to memory. Indeed, no self respecting student of the Mustang would dare claim expertise without knowing the subtle differences between a P-51B and a P-51C beyond the obvious fact they were manufactured in different locations. No doubt enthusiasm of this sort was inspired partly by my father’s tales of being an Air Scout and hanging around the likes of Joe Foss.

But it was more than that. There was something attractive about being a fighter pilot or even a member of a bomber crew that was different from serving on the land or at sea. Once the aircraft left the ground, a whole new set of rules were in effect. All you had to work with was what you brought with you into the air and all you could do was move forward – no cavalry, no digging in, no backing up. Its the kind of environment that appeals to a grown up Aikido black belt libertarian who’s not afraid of a fight.

Each time I see one of the old WWII era aircraft fly over, I think of the men who went to war in these machines. Each of those moments is a Memorial Day unto itself as I cannot help but imagine standing on an airfield in England in 1944, the plane I’m watching having just taken off on its way to a mission deep in the heart of Germany. I’m seeing and hearing exactly what it would have been like over 60 years ago. These moments are a brief experience of times long gone. Unfortunately, memory of the sacrifice is fading, too.

I thought of these things yet again this past weekend as the Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17G, “Aluminum Overcast,” visited Centennial Airport. My office window looks out over the flight pattern for Centennial Airport, so for the past four days I’ve watched this amazing piece of history take off and head out across the flat Colorado landscape several dozen times. I did manage a couple of good shots with my trusty Sony DSC-W7, and even a little video. Below is one of the better pictures.

B-17G Aluminum Overcast
Boeing B-17G “Aluminum Overcast”

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2008.06.02

Grammar fix.