MARION, IL (KFVS) - Veterans, their families and history buffs boarded a plane into the past at the Williamson County Regional Airport Thursday.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) B-24 Bomber, Diamond Lil, provided several flights for folks curious to learn about this flying piece of history.
“This is the first B-24 I’ve seen up close,” said Air Force veteran Donald Farris of Miller City. “I’ve seen B-29’s, B-25’s, & B-26’s, but not a B-24.”
For some, it was a way to connect with loved ones who are now gone. Tina Butler’s father, WWII pilot Leonard Wood, passed away 14 years ago. She says booking a flight on Diamond Lil gave her an idea of what her dad experienced long ago.
“He was actually up in the cockpit the whole time,” said Butler. “I was up there and was able to see what was going on and I really enjoyed it. I can understand why my dad really liked it.”
"You hear those stories all the time from the children and the grand children,” said Diamond Lil crew member Charley Rodriguez. “Hopefully that tradition will continue over the years.”
Other passengers on Diamond Lil’s manifest remember the days when B-24’s were a common sight over Europe.
“I just didn’t think I’d ever get to see one again,” said 90-year-old WWII B-24 flight engineer Edward Young. “That is a pretty airplane.”
Young flew 30 missions a B-24 over Germany in WWII; many in a plane named Pollyanna.
"We lost Pollyanna on I think it was ourseventeenthh mission, bellied it in,” said Young. “Couldn't get the gear down and had to belly land it. Pretty well took it out of commission.”
Young says that, and other experiences were exhilarating for a young man at war, but also pretty frightening.
“You got scared at times when you'd look out and see a hole about that big above you coming through,” said Young. “Yeah, it was scary."
Young booked a 4:30 p.m. flight on Diamond Lil and his family tells Heartland News he’s still on cloud nine from the whole experience.
Diamond Lil is one of only 12 remaining B-24 bombers in the world, and one of only two still in flight. The plane is maintained and flown by a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving history for folks like Edward Young and generations to come.
Diamond Lil and her CAF crew now move on to another destination to share living history with another group of veterans and families.