Hey AirshowStuff fans, all of our full photo albums from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 have been updated with over 400 amazing photos to browse through! Check out some sample images below, and click the links to view the complete albums!
What do you get when you mix the jubilation of ending the Second World War and an Army Air Forces (AAF) with captured enemy aircraft and technology? One of the coolest airshows a warbird buff could possibly imagine! Check out this footage of the Freeman Field Airshow held in September of 1945, 70 years ago.
Some of the highlights you’ll see in this incredible footage are a flying Junkers Ju 290 A-4 (which was a frequent performer at airshows at the field), a mass formation of B-25 Mitchells, low and fast passes by P-47 Thunderbolts, and a fantastic static lineup with a Ju-88, Me-163, V-1 and V-2, and even a Fairchild C-82 Packet on display. Certainly this was one of the coolest shows one could catch in the 20th Century, but how did it come to be and whatever happened to those aircraft?
The end of the war effort meant that it was time to start collecting and shipping home the captured enemy vehicles and materials. An effort was made to evaluate these captured technologies in the form of Operation Lusty, of which General of the US Army Air Forces Henry “Hap” Arnold ordered one of each type of enemy aircraft operated preserved. When the aircraft were shipped to the US, they were split between the US Navy and Army Air Forces. The AAF began storing their captured aircraft at Wright Field until there was no longer space left for the remaining examples. The surplus aircraft were sent to Freeman Field near Seymour, Indiana as it had ample space for the remaining aircraft.
From June of 1945 to December of 1946, Freeman Field was the new Foreign Aircraft Evaluation Center for the AAF where Axis aircraft were evaluated, cataloged, and stored in preparation for the planned AAF museum. When the field was closed, most of the aircraft had been sent away for disposal. The larger aircraft were sent to Davis-Monthan Field (now Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) and the fighters to the Special Depot III, Park Ridge (now O’Hare International Airport). Sadly, a small number of aircraft were destroyed at the field prior to shutdown. There are a small number of survivors of Operation Lusty like the Arado Ar 234, Dornier Do 335, and Heinkel He 219, which are now apart of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Though today we may never see the same scale of variety and examples of rare aircraft on display again at modern airshows, we can’t give up too much hope, as there are several groups that are tracing the burial pits of those destroyed aircraft at Freeman Field in search of what might be inside them. Regardless, this footage is truly remarkable to watch again and again.
Established in 1979, the Collings Foundation’s mission is to organize and support “living history” events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation. In 1989, the foundation began to focus on the Wings of Freedom Tour, which began with their fully restored Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” and Consolidated B-24J Liberator that started as “The Dragon And His Tail” before recently being repainted as “Witchcraft.” In recent years, their North American TP-51C Mustang “Betty Jane” and B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo” have joined in the tour, though rarely are all four together. This year is the exception, as Tondelayo joined the other three already on tour in the Pacific Northwest.
While it’s thrilling to see these aircraft fly, the Collings Foundation ups the experience further by allowing paid ground tours and flights at each of their destinations. Appreciation for a World War II bomber can be found within the small, metal interiors where one can walk from nose to tail taking in the environment that was home and office to young aircrews during the war. Walking around the outside, one can see the blistering armament that served as the aircraft’s only self-defense against determined enemy fighters. But to truly experience the aircraft and the heritage they represent, you have to get airborne.
A flight aboard the bombers costs $450 per person, and is well worth the investment. The crews take you through a safety briefing and allow you the opportunity to turn over the propellers on the engines to prepare for takeoff. Once inside, you can find decent seating in the waist and radio operators room with windows to watch startup and liftoff from. For aviation fans, the sound of those old radials turning over and roaring to life from inside is an exhilarating feeling all its own. Once in the air, all engines humming together, you can get up and tour the aircraft again, seeing local landmarks and terrain below from a perspective otherwise lost in commercial travel.
However, the tour isn’t just for those aviation and history enthusiasts to enjoy and travel back in time with. Veterans of the war can take advantage of visiting these aircraft that hold sentimental connections to their past service and the people they knew during it. The quality restoration work done on each of the participating aircraft is best appreciated by those veterans that served aboard them and whose eyes and hands can best remember their look and feel. The same can be said for those who built the thousands of aircraft from stateside factories. For them, there could not be any better opportunity available today.
The chance to enjoy and learn from these aircraft is thanks to the force behind the Collings Foundation’s success and support: its volunteers. People of all walks of life have made grand commitments to the restoration and maintenance of these aircraft at their home and abroad, and it’s that spirit of involvement and investment that keep these symbols of history flying through the years to come. The air crews that command these aircraft from site to site are all volunteers with their own history to share, as well as those who man the booths and organize the event. When you visit the tour at a stop near you, take the time to thank them for their work and learn from them and others there.
The Wings of Freedom Tour is an annual event, and while the crews are now beginning to make their way back across the nation, you can still find them at these upcoming locations:
Ft. Collins, CO – Jul 10-12
Garland, NE – Jul 13-15
Lincoln, NE – Jul 15-17
Omaha, NE – Jul 17-19
Mason City, IA – Jul 20-22
Waterloo, IA – Jul 22-24
West Chicago, IL – Jul 24-26
Griffith, IL – Jul 27-29
Waukegan, IL – Jul 29-31
Chicago, IL – Jul 31-Aug 2
Valparaiso, IN – Aug 3-5
Kalamazoo, MI – Aug 5-7
Flint, MI – Aug 7-9
Port Clinton, MI – Aug 10-12
Cleveland , OH – Aug 12-14
Akron-Canton, OH – Aug 14-16
Jamestown, NY – Aug 17-19
Penn Yan, NY – Aug 19-21
Poughkeepsie, NY – Aug 21-23
Hazelton, PA – Aug 24-26
Wall Township, NJ – Aug 26-31
Trenton, NJ – Aug 31-Sept 2
Cape May, NJ – Sept 4-7
Worcester, MA – Sept 25-27
*Schedule as of July 11, 2015.
Thank you to the Collings Foundation, Hunter Cheney, and Ryan Keough for allowing us to visit the tour and hop a flight on the B-17 and B-24 from one stop to the next. The experience was wonderful as always!
Thank you to all of our fans for submitting to our Bomber theme week! After 20 weeks, we once again had another record number of submissions! We posted some of our favorite Bomber photos throughout the week, and asked you to share some of your own shots to be featured right here on our blog. Check out just a sampling of the submissions in the slideshow below!
With airshow season just about upon us at AirshowStuff, this next week will be the final theme week, and we want theme weeks to go out with a bang! So this week’s theme is Best of the Best! We want to see the best airshow photo you’ve ever taken! All week long we’ll be posting our very best photos and want to see yours, too! If you would like to contribute to our next theme week, go to our Facebook page, like the page, and upload your photos to our wall!