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Fri, Apr 13, 2012

Members Of World War II Bomber Crews Gather To Share Real-Life Recollections

Fantasy Of Flight's Collection Of Real WWII Bombers Provides Compelling Backdrop For Part Three Of 2012 "Legends & Legacies" Symposium April 13-14

Everyone knows how World War II ended, but many people have never before heard personal, firsthand accounts of the men and women who lived through it. On Friday, April 13 and Saturday, April 14, Fantasy of Flight in central Florida once again brings the general public the opportunity to do just that as its Legends & Legacies Symposium Series continues with "Unspoken Valor: The Bomber Crews of World War II."

World War II bombers including the B-25 Mitchell, the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator featured amazing strengths but also potentially catastrophic weaknesses. Throughout the two-day symposium, several brave veterans who manned behemoth bomber aircraft share tales that only the insiders - and survivors - could know. The veterans will interact with guests in open forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions. Not only will guests be able to hear firsthand from these daring airmen and patriots, they will be able to walk through an authentic B-17 Flying Fortress and imagine what it was like to participate in a bombing mission over hostile Germany as one of the bomber's 10-member crew. Visitors will also get an up-close look at the fierce P-51 Mustang, the fighter escort for the B-17.
Fantasy of Flight plays host to legendary WWII and Vietnam War heroes as they share their compelling personal accounts, as well as their family members and descendants, who are able to offer their own unique perspectives. The series also includes heroes from WWII who served on the ground protecting and supporting the men and women in flight. "We are truly honored to welcome these distinguished airmen to Fantasy of Flight to share their incredible stories about flying bombing missions in the B-17 and others," said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. "The opportunity to hear firsthand from our World War II veterans is truly a gift and we hope that all of Central Florida will come out to support these true war heroes while learning more about their amazing aircraft."

Upon the entry of the United States into World War II, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress played a vital role in the bombardment of Germany. Flying out of American bases in England, as many as 1,000 B-17 aircraft at a time were staged and deployed in daring daylight raids. In the earliest days of the war, the long distance bombers flew steadfast to their targets, even when their fighter defense had to turn back for fuel, which required the bombers to operate in tight formation for protection - and resulted in a loss rate up to 25 percent. Even so, enemy fighters attacked the legendary, durable B-17 knowing that thirteen .50 caliber guns awaited them. Eventually, the development of the long-range P-51 Mustang granted the Flying Fortress a fierce escort at its side, allowing the bombers to deliver their payloads with greater safety to the crews and to truly turn the tide of the war in Europe.
Upcoming events in the 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series include: "D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy," May 11-12; "Reflections of Vietnam," June 8-9 and "Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival," Oct. 12-13. Fantasy of Flight welcomes inquiries from all those who may be interested in participating in the symposium series. (Images top: T/Sgt. Patrick O'Keef who was a gunner on the B-17 in WWII, bottom: B-17 aircraft were staged in daring daylight raids during WWII, provided by Fantasy of Flight)



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