What do you get when you take six friends and go for a ride in a B-17 Bomber? A whole lot of fun and a mini history lesson!
We had the fortunate opportunity to go fly in one of just two B-17 Bombers that have been restored and are allowed to fly around with people in them. We flew out from the Stead airport, where the Reno Air Races are held annually. The Stead airport is a fun place to be if you love airplanes, like I do. It is not crowded in times like these and you get be out on the tarmac with all the other planes.
What impacted me the most from this adventure was not the ability to walk around the B-17 or even the ride in the plane, but the history. It made me think back to when the B-17 Bomber was built and flown by young men who knew there was a good chance this would be their last flight ever.
Let me take you back to the time when these brave men on missions were willing to give their life for their country so we could keep our freedoms. But, that was not all they were fighting for. As we know, these brave men were also fighting for others in the world who were depending on them to gain their freedoms back.
Most of these men, and it is really hard to call them men since they were so young at 18 and 19 years old, were leaving their homes for the first time. They wore suits that had electric coils in them, which needed to be plugged in to provide heat when on a mission because the temperature would easily reach minus 55 degrees. These suits would often fail, because when the young men wore the suits on the ground, to be prepared, they would sweat in them and this would rust the coils and cause them to short out.
These young men would fly for hours to reach their destination and then would have to make the same journey back; sometimes totaling 11 hours in the air. They wore oxygen masks the entire time. If they were shot or injured and lost their mask, they had about 30 seconds before they passed out. Most men sat in cramped turrets manning their guns at all times.
When they joined their B-17 Bomber squadron, their chances of dying were one out of three and that statistic was only for the missions that flew. Over one third of the planes were shot down when on a mission, but another 4,000 plus were lost in training accidents. The odds of dying were tremendously high.
There were 12,721 B-17 Bombers built in a 5-year period. If a crew was able to survive 25 missions, they were sent home and were considered to have served their duty for their country.
Wow! Those are some sobering and scary odds. Imagine if when you headed off to work in the morning, you knew that you had a one in three chance of not returning home that night!
When you hear about those times in our history, when we were fighting evil and protecting our freedoms with thousands of our young men being killed, it makes you stop and think. Do we really have anything worth complaining about in our daily lives? Oh, I suppose I could have a bad day at work, someone could cut me off in traffic, or something could go wrong at home. But really, is there anything to complain about most of the time?
There is a real frustration when we look at the world today and hear all the whining and sniveling because people are not given enough from the government (which, of course, really comes out of our pockets). Health care has now become a right and not a privilege. And my favorite, people are actually arguing over which bathroom they should be allowed to use. You get the picture.
Sometimes things are just not convenient! Like heading off to war and knowing your odds are less than half that you get to come home to worry about such things. We should be a nation of grateful people and appreciate all that we have. The United States is so rich with abundance that you literally have to ignore it to not have it. Our poorest of the poor are wealthy compared to the majority of the rest of the world.
Do we have things to complain about? Of course, but we need to keep it in perspective. The next time you are having a bad moment, stop and think about what so many others still don’t have today, and how thousands of men and women have suffered so our great nation can prosper. Thank you to all who have fought to give us, and others around the world, the freedom to live in abundance.