Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day - Remembering World War II Airmen

Yesterday I took this picture of a restored B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bomber heading towards Boise’s Gowen Field. Seven decades ago, during World War II, the Army Air Corp leased that airport with its 8,800 foot runway and used it as a training field for B-17 and B-24 Liberator bomber crews. About 6,000 people were stationed there, including the famous movie actor Jimmy Stewart. Housing units built for senior non-commissioned officers as Sergeant City are still around. Boise Weekly had an article about riding in that restored B-17.

My brother-in-law’s father was based in England and flew over Germany in a B-17. There were movies about them like Memphis Belle and Target for Today. Some crews were shot down over water, as described in an article in today’s newspaper. The generic memorial shown above says:

"We who came home must never forget those who could not."

 It is at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.   

My father worked on one detail that made those bomber crews able to fly safely at high altitudes. If almost all the moisture was not removed from the oxygen in their tanks, it would freeze and jam the valves. He helped develop canisters for drying the oxygen as the tanks were filled. Those canisters were similar to the cans for tennis balls. A company in Cincinnati made them for the Army Air Corps. Workers who assembled them were wealthy society ladies. They were served coffee in the mornings, and high tea in the afternoons. The company owner had recruited them via patriotic appeals at meetings of ladies clubs.

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