This plane flew 15 bombing missions in WWII; this week it’s offering flights in Idaho Falls
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IDAHO FALLS – A piece of World War II history is in town this week and you’re invited to come take a look.
The B-25 “Maid in the Shade” landed at the Idaho Falls Regional Airport Monday afternoon. The plane is one of two WWII era bombers scheduled to be in town this week as part of the “Flying Legends of Victory Tour.”
Mitchell Counce, a member of the B-25 flight crew, tells EastIdahoNews.com the purpose of the tour is to honor the memory of the men who flew this plane.
“This is a living history museum, if you will, to those people who served, or were associated with this type of aircraft in World War II,” Counce says.
Locals may recall the B-25 being featured in old movies like “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo” or “Catch-22.” On April 18, 1942, the B-25 bomber was flown during the raid over Tokyo. Sixteen B-25 models flew off the U.S.S. Hornet and bombed targets on the island of Japan.
“All of those crew members had to ditch (the airplane) because they ran out of gas,” Counce says.
Only 9,800 were built specifically for bombing missions during the war, and Counce estimates only 20 of this particular model are actively flying today.
The one on display at the airport was built in 1944 and first saw combat in November and December of that year.
“It flew 15 missions off the island of Corsica, which is painted on this aircraft, and bombed railroad bridges in Italy and Yugoslavia,” he says. “On one of those 15 missions, four of these ships went out and this is the only one that came back.”
Those who come and see the plane this week will notice multiple signatures on the bottom of the aircraft of the men who flew it, men who were members of the crew, or men who helped build it. Counce says his favorite part of this tour is getting to meet the veterans who have connections to the B-25.
“At our last stop, we had three veterans sign the bombay doors,” Counce says. “A lot of people don’t talk about (what they experienced). Among World War II veterans, some want to, but others just come to see it and don’t say anything.”
During a recent tour stop, Counce says a man came up to the plane. He looked down for several minutes while placing his hands on the side of the plane.
“He was spared on a mission and his buddies were lost. So it just means a lot to people. If I can help them have some sort of closure or an experience that helps them in some way, it makes the tour worth it. It’s priceless,” Counce says.
Another World War II era plane, the B-17, was also scheduled to land in Idaho Falls Monday. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it will not arrive until Saturday.
Brent Beck, the pilot for the B-17, grew up in Shelley and is currently a test pilot for Lockheed Martin. He was not available for comment Monday, but his mother, Joyce, says her son’s interest in airplanes began as a boy.
“When Brent was a young man, he loved the aviation videos at the Idaho Falls Public Library. (There was) one particular (video) he loved and checked out often. Amazingly, the video had 15 minutes about ‘The Sentimental Journey,’ the very B-17 he will be flying in Idaho Falls. Childhood dreams come true,” Joyce says.
Tours of the B-25 will be available Tuesday morning and will continue until Sunday. If you’d like a tour, just come to the hangar located at 1940 International Way #2 in Idaho Falls. Guided tours will begin at 9 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. Each tour will last about 45 minutes. The cost is $15 per person or $25 for a family. Rides for the B-25 and the B-17 will be offered this weekend. If you’d like to book a flight, click here.
“We’re excited to be here. We’ve heard really good things about Idaho Falls,” Counce says. “It’s pretty nice to leave the Phoenix area where I live and go on tour in the summer where it’s cooler, to meet people and get the opportunity to fly on this aircraft.”