EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – On this day, a flight. It’s cargo, people of several generations, including one man who is now 96 years old who was there on D-Day.
I had the good fortune and honor to be on the flight of the B-17 that passed over LST-325. The warship that was on the beaches of Normandy.
An old flying fortress prepares for takeoff… To think there were more than 12,000 of them built during a time America was part of a dangerous world.
“Our targets were to hit the Germans behind as they receded from where D-Day was going on, on the beach. And then our target was to keep them from retreating.”
Walking around his smaller damaged P-47 fighter.
After taking fire over Corsica. Controlling his destiny during 118 missions.
“Well, like most good pilots, we were out flying, and we didn’t know where we were going. We were flying over southern France.”
Allen Sanderson went on yet another flight past dawn’s first light on the bigger B-17 bomber. Flying as he did 75 years ago in a P-47 this day above France.
“We came back from our mission and found out the invasion had started, and it was going – that was our first knowledge of it”
It was Operation Overload – the largest military offensive in history
“And that’s the way we looked at it then. If this goes, it’ll be ok.”
“The first thing was hey, this sounds good, it might the start of the end”
On this gray Thursday, Omaha Beach was replaced by the sunshine of the Evansville riverfront.
Looking down past the roaring four engines of the Texas Raiders flying fortress there it was – the LST-325.
Hundreds of them built in Evansville, transporting thousands of troops, many to their deaths.
“I don’t think young people understand what war is all about. Or what their parents and all their relatives did, even if they weren’t soldiers.”
The members of the B-17 flight crew who were not yet on this earth on that day–man the ten-member crew. They all volunteer they do not receive a dime.
“I get the feeling of what these young kids actually went through with one major exception. Nobody was shooting at me,”
I was lucky to join this pilot
“You had to do what you had to do, and you just did it.”
And the clock was ticking. The kids who flew these were trained.
Allen Sanderson said he learned to fly in 20 hours stateside.
“Didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter.”
And in this day of modern flight and people impatient to board their flights, a proud 75-year-old flying fortress is up there those on board remembering.
(This story was originally published on June 6, 2019)