“Doc” B-29 soars to flight while society crashes

July 24, 2016
By
www.b29-doc.com

www.b29-doc.com

It was a Sunday summer morn as perfect as I remembered them. A fire orange sun rising above the low ground haze on its way to join the cloud dotted blue sky that only Kansas in July can produce.

I was driving north on I 35 towards Wichita, “the air capital of the world”, Kansas reflecting on how much had happened since I’d first driven it so many years ago. A new field of wind turbines straddling the turnpike driving home that thought at 75 mph.

I arrived as a young adult in Wichita in 1979 and would periodically call it home for the next 27 years. And some of the best memories were the years when McConnell Air Force Base was home to to the 384th Bomb wing and a complement of B1-B bombers. The roar of their engines could be heard for miles at all hours of the day, but to fully catch the magnificence of these birds you headed down to 47th street at dusk to await night operations.

Trust me, there is no other site in this world quite like a B1-B screaming off the end of that runway in full afterburner mode. The roar of those jet engines combined with the flames pushing those great birds into the night sky is an experience once felt, never to be forgotten.

And this Sunday morning I was going back to that spot to witness one more flight operation. This one however, with just a bit more significance. The restored B-29 Superfortress “Doc” was set to make her first flight in over 60 years. An effort spanning the past 29 years was at last, literally about to take flight.

After a short delay caused by a stubborn bomb bay door latch, Doc was cleared for takeoff and moments later appeared on the horizon lumbering down the runway for her place in history.

As she flew overhead the sight of those magnificent props and the sound of those 4 Wright Duplex Cyclone engines made me almost believe I was back there in ’45 when she first rolled off that Boeing assembly line.

Five minutes and one circle later she was back to ground but the flight was in the books and I would spend my remaining days upon this Earth remembering every second of it. What had started as but a dream when Tony Mazzolini first discovered Doc sitting on a bombing range in the Mojave Desert in 1987 had turned into an unimaginable realty.

As I started the walk back to the car I barely felt the ground beneath me. For a history buff like me, it was THAT kind of a moment. A wow, did I really just see that moment.

Then I got into the car and the radio came on: “We can confirm at this time that one police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has been killed and at least three others shot….”

And in an instant my Doc euphoria was replaced with bewilderment and disgust.

I thought of the significance of what I had just witnessed and pondered what we have done to the memory of that greatest generation those75 years ago who paid the ultimate price that we would live free. That the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of today would not grow up in the fear of theirs.

I thought of for all our technological advancements we’ve made since, how we’ve also tossed aside the values, traditions and morals that made society livable.

And sadly, as I searched for answers, all I could muster was, “My God, what have we done…My God, just what have we done?

PULBISHER’s NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the July 24, 2016 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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