Facts have never been as intriguing to me as people, and their personal experiences. I am a curious person, and understanding another’s circumstances fully paints a more complete and memorable picture.
For several years now Doug has wanted to see the WWII vintage planes at the annual traveling Wings of Freedom exhibition, but as convenient as the Westchester County Airport is to get to, something else always got in the way. Til yesterday.
WOW. You’ve got to go.
Standing next to the planes is one thing. Walking across the open belly of the plane, on an suspended 8″ wide strip, in between (faux/de-commissioned) bombs…standing in the top gunner turret, looking down to see the paint worn away from the platform, where so many brave had stood…seeing the under-gun turret: understanding men were enclosed in this approx. 3′ in diameter bubble, then lowered out of the plane during flight spinning 360 degrees to protect the plan from all angles…WHOA….
There are two planes that are open for walking through-a B17, and B24-and several others to ponder. There are Air Corps personnel dressed in gear of the time, to answer all your questions about whatever-the planes, the history, the experiences of the time.
There was a real cross-section there, people of all ages. Most civilians, but a few small groups were scattered throughout the crowds…veterans who came to see, to remember, and thankfully, to share. Luckily, we met Frank.
Frank Honigman served late in the war, in the US Army Air Corps. He was married and with a 5 year old child when the family moved to a base in Mississippi. And yes, he trained as one of those guys suspended from the bottom of the underside of the plane, a bottom gunner on the B24, in a Sperry Ball Turret.
Frank will be 95 next May, and was there yesterday with his daughter Brenda Jeselnik, and her husband Joe Jeselnik. All Westchester residents, it was Brenda’s first time really seeing the things her dad had talked about all these years. Here he is (in plaid shirt) looking up into the bomb bay with Joe’s help.
We spoke for a bit, he explained about his training, how the ball turret worked, and what the risks were. Sobered, and with a mix of awe, gratitude and sadness for it all- we shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.
This traveling exhibition is sponsored by The Collins Group of Stow MA, and will be at the airport through Wednesday. Parking is free, and admission is $12.00 for adults, $6.00 for children 12 years and under. Go. If you’re lucky, you’ll also have the opportunity to meet, and thank a veteran like Frank, and their family- yourself.