POSTED: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:20pm
UPDATED: Friday, March 15, 2013 - 11:38pm
They are time machines of aluminum and steel. Museums powered by aerogas and American might.
They are the planes that fought the greatest conflict in the history of the world.
And they are the blunt instruments of freedom.
And the Collins Foundation is sending the Wings of Freedom tour again to Tyler.
The B-17 Flying Fortress bore the bulk of 8th Air force missions over German occupied Europe.
Joined by the B-24 Liberator, flown by men like Jimmy Stewart, Lloyd Bentson and George McGovern.
All were sitting ducks for German fighters until the arrival of the P-51 Mustang and it’s Rolls Royce Merlin engine sounding like ripping silk.
But even the Mustang was out powered by the world’s first combat jet to see action, the Messerschmitt 262.
100 miles per hour faster than the Mustang, the 262 was a nasty surprise for bomber crews, like the B-26 squadron led by 19-year-old Bill Halbert.
"The B-26 has a top turret and it couldn't turn fast enough to follow it,” Halbert says. “The other guys, and they told me and it was the same feeling that I had, it was moving so fast, you couldn't see it, you couldn't track it with your eyes. It was like a dotted line. It was so much faster than anything we'd seen."
And P-51 pilots finally figured out how to take on the 262.
“When he came in for a landing,” Halbert told us, “he had to come in slow and sort of shogie up to get to that spot, because he couldn’t come in fast and slow down. So he was on a low pass for an extended period and so that allowed the American fighters to get into position and shoot him down when he was in that landing phase and that’s how it came about.”
The World War II squadron is joined by an iconic bird from a later conflict, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the Huey.
It’s a chance to touch, smell, hear and feel history. And for some, to return to a time when the world hung in the balance.