Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida, continues its Living History Symposium Series with a tribute to the Boeing B-17 Bomber, aka the Flying Fortress, and the men who flew these virtually indestructible, long-distance bombers.
On Sat., Oct. 17, and Sun., Oct. 18, five of those men will share their stories of the B-17. The World War II veterans will interact with guests in open forum/question-and-answer sessions scheduled both days at 11:30 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Not only will guests be able to hear firsthand from these airmen, they will be able to walk through a B-17. Visitors will also get an up-close look at the P-51 Mustang, the fighter escort for the B-17.
The “Fearless Men of the B-17 Flying Fortress” include:
* Gilbert “Gil” Belair (The Villages, Fla.) an airplane commander (left seat pilot) who flew B-17 bombers with the 305th Bomb Group (H) in the 8th U. S. Army Air Force in England.
* Richard “Rick” Morris (The Villages, Fla.) was a pilot with the 92nd Bomb Group (H) 8th U.S. Army Air Force. The 92nd, along with the 306th and the 384th Bomb Groups, were the three oldest units deployed in England during World War II and were accorded the dubious “honor” of remaining in Europe as part of the Occupation Forces of Germany. =
* Patrick O’Keef (Orlando, Fla.) saw action in 27 heavy bombardment missions over enemy-occupied Europe while flying in B-17s with the 8th Air Force Bombardment Division, 388th Bomb Group (sq. “H”), 562nd Bomb Squadron. During that time he was usually the 11th man in the B-17 as the aerial photographer.
* Paul Roberts (The Villages, Fla.) flew the B-17 as an airplane commander with the 457th Bomb Group (H) of the U.S. Army 8th Air Force based near the village of Glatton, England.
* Linwood Smith (The Villages, Fla.) was a member of the 8th Air Force, 339th Fighter Group, 503rd Fighter Squad in Fowlmere, England. He piloted the P-51, escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers to and from Germany.
* William H. Rich (Orange Park, Fla.) served with 95th Bomb Group as a gunner, and later as a targeter. Rich has been recognized for his gunnery instruction to well-known celebrity students Bob Hope and Jimmy Stewart. He also published a memoir about his wartime experience entitled “All Out For Freedom.”
* Rudy Froeschle (Ft. Myers, Fla) joined the 384th Bomber Group, 544th Fighter Squadron in Germany 1943. During a mission over Stuttgart, Germany, his plane was gunned down and he was held prisoner for two years. During his captivity, he taught German grammar and literature to college students.
In conjunction with this event, Fantasy of Flight will host a Military Collector’s Show at its onsite Orlampa Conference Center, on Sat., Oct. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and Sun., Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The show will feature nearly 40 military antiques collectors, showing a wide variety of collectible memorabilia from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Guests will have the opportunity to see and purchase uniforms, medals, insignia and war relics, among other military-related items.
This marks the fourth event in Fantasy of Flight’s Living History Symposium Series. This spring, the attraction hosted the Tuskegee Airmen. Next came the Women Airforce Service Pilots, followed by the World War II American Fighter Aces.
The Living History Symposium and the Military Collectors Show are included with regular Fantasy of Flight admission. Guests may pay just $6 for entry to the Military Collectors Show only.
For more information, call 863-984-3500 or FantasyOfFlight.com.