American Legion Vietnam War Memorial Post 639 in Springfield, Mo., and ALR 639 charter member Marvin 'Rusty' Russell (88 years old) flies in his old B-25 bomber! And yes, he rode his motorcycle to the airport that day. We just wished he had remembered to wear his ALR vest.
(text from story on local news broadcast)
For a World War II veteran from Republic, it was like going back in time. Marvin Russell flew 18 missions in B-25 bombers, and Thursday, for the first time since the war, he took off in one.
When Russell, 88, known as Rusty, saw that a World War II B-25 bomber was in town, he had to visit.
"I saw the picture, and, when they said it was based in Corsica, I said, 'Well, it's got to be one of four squadrons.' And I came out here, and come to find out it was in my squadron," said Russell.
"We were going through the records and sure enough, two missions on number 18, Maid in the Shade. What a thrill, what a thrill," said Russ Gilmore of the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.
"That was considered my office," said Russell.
He was a tail gunner in the U.S. Army Air Forces and flew two missions in this exact B-25 in November 1944.
"Blowing up some railroad bridges to keep the Germans from escaping," Russell said.
Those who helped restore the plane, and take the flying museum all over the country, had tried to find crew members, but the chances were slim.
"Like close to zero," said Gilmore.
"There's not many of us left. I don't think there's any other planes left but this one," Russell said.
"We got Rusty up in the back of the plane, into the tail gunner position, and Rusty had just a little bit of a tear in his eye," said Gilmore.
"It brought back a lot of memories getting in there yesterday, and it's going to be a lot more today when I get to fly," Russell said
This time, Russell chose to enjoy the view from up front.
"It was so much smaller back there than what I remembered. I laid it to blame on age that it's hard to get around in there," said Russell.
More than 68 years since his last flight in this B-25, Russell once again took to the sky.
"I just want to ride in it and look around over Springfield," said Russell.
"He was just thrilled, and it was an honor. That's why we do this, to honor and never forget the sacrifices that our World War II vets made for us. They're incredible heroes, brave heroes," said Russell.
The restored B-25 is at Springfield's old airport terminal until Monday, Sept. 16. It comes from the museum at Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz.
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If you would like to contact Rusty for further questions, his phone number is (417)732-2885. All of us from Post 639 would like this story told not just for him, but for his family.
Past Dept. Vice Cmdr., Zone 3, Missouri