Saturday, January 14, 2012

Great Day and Special Guest at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum Today

After breakfast with the normal radio crowd this morning I headed over to the museum to introduce a couple of new volunteers to the B-17 restoration project.  Greg Bandish and his coworker John are active duty airmen based at Fort Stewart.  They are radio maintenance troops assigned to an Air Force unit that works alongside Army personnel supporting the comm requirements of the JTACs and TACPs.  Greg is a ham and just arrived on station at Fort Stewart last month.  Greg came to our radio club meeting last week and expressed an interest in helping us on the B-17 project.  So I gave Greg and John the grand tour today and got them up to speed on the project.  Looking forward to having them as part of the radio team.

As I was about to wrap things up in the compartment and leave the museum, two of our other volunteers, Joel and Gil came thru the airplane with a very special guest.  I watched in awe and a very physically fit and distinguished looking elderly man walked past me in the radio room on his way to the cockpit.  His daughter was with him and as Gil escorted him forward, she told me that this man was a B-17 co-pilot during WWII.  Wow.  What an honor to be inside a B-17 with this American hero from the "Greatest Generation". 

Lt. Earl Denton McCreary in the radio compartment

Lt. McCreary telling us about his experience flying the B-17

As he exited the plane thru the aft hatch, I followed to find a crowd of more than a dozen or so people gathering around him.  I asked one man what was going on and began to explain to me that they were all family members (children and grandchildren) of the B-17 crew of the "Charlotte Ann".  They had come from all across the country to be part of a ceremony to dedicate a plaque to the crew of the "Charlotte Ann" to be installed in the Memorial Gardens on the museum grounds.  Incredible.  I was able to take a few pictures and a short video clip of this gentleman as he spoke about his experience flying the B-17 over Europe.  I met his grandson and gathered the details about his grandfather.  His grandfathers name is Lt. Earl Denton McCreary and he was the co-pilot of the B-17 "Charlotte Ann" which flew out of England with the 385th Bomb Group.  Lt. McCreary is now 92 years old and the last remaining crew member of the "Charlotte Ann".  Lt. McCreary then begin to explain that he was the oldest member of the crew and the only married man at the ripe old age of 22.  The aircraft was named after his wife Charlotte Ann.  Lt. McCreary and his crew flew 25 missions which would normally mean that you have completed your tour and would rotate back to the states, however toward the end of the war they changed the number of flights required to 30.  He continued to explain that on thier 26th mission he was hit in the side of his head by flak and recieved wounds including a jaw that was broken in several places.  He said the thing that saved him was his radio headset as it bore the brunt of the scrapnel.  What an amazing man.  And what an honor to meet, listen to, and talk with this hero. 

Later this evening was the annual B-17 "City of Savannah" volunteer appreciation dinner.  Lorie and I met up with several others from our radio team including Bill DeLoach, Steve and Sue Jonas, and Peter and Elaine Levesque to enjoy the evening with all of the volunteers that have worked so hard on the project over this last year.  The CEO of the museum, Henry Skipper, asked me to say the invocation and bless the meal which I was honored to do.  I mentioned our earlier interaction with Lt. McCreary and the families of the crew of "Charlotte Ann" and then prayed that God will have his hand on our efforts to memorialize the B-17 and thier crews through our restoration of the "City of Savannah".   Wow, what an awesome day.

Sue Jonas with Peter and Elaine Levesque

Bill DeLoach and Steve Jonas

Each volunteer recieved a nice spiral bound book chronicaling 2011 achievements

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