World War II bombers return to Blaine this weekend

The rumble of historic World War II aircraft will be heard over the Anoka County-Blaine Airport this weekend when the Wings of Freedom Tour returns.

The Consolidated B-24J Liberator titled “Witchcraft” that’s owned by the Collins Foundation is the world’s only fully restored and flying B-24J Liberator. The plane is pictured at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport during a previous visit. The B-24 fought in the skies of Europe and the Pacific and was heavily used as a strategic bomber throughout World War II. The plane returns to Blaine this weekend. File photo by Tim Hennagir

The Consolidated B-24J Liberator titled “Witchcraft” that’s owned by the Collins Foundation is the world’s only fully restored and flying B-24J Liberator. The plane is pictured at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport during a previous visit. The B-24 fought in the skies of Europe and the Pacific and was heavily used as a strategic bomber throughout World War II. The plane returns to Blaine this weekend. File photo by Tim Hennagir

A B-17G Flying Fortress, B-24J Liberator and TP-51C Mustang are scheduled to touch down early Friday afternoon (July 20) at Key Air, 9877 N. Airport Road N.E.

The warbirds are owned and operated by the non-profit Collings Foundation based in Stow, Mass.

The four-day living history event will feature free Saturday and Sunday educational seminars with fighter, service and bomber crew members and pilots who were part of America’s Greatest Generation.

“Two years ago, we did a similar seminar about the B-17 and it was so successful, this year we are going to do two of them,” said Newell Chester, Coon Rapids historian and lecturer who will moderate sessions, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

USS Bennington fighter pilots Marv Dahlgren, Minneapolis, and Lyle Bradley, Andover, will speak Saturday along with Women’s Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) Elizabeth “Betty Wall” Strohfus.

Strohfus was one of the 1,074 American women who flew military aircraft during World War II.

Bradley flew F4U Corsairs from carriers in the Pacific. During the Korean War, he flew air support over the Chosin Reservoir. “Lyle put his bombs right on target. He drove the Chinese away from our Marines,” Chester said.

Two B-17 crew members and European Theater veterans will speak Sunday: Bob Clemens, who served with the 15th Air Force’s 463rd Bomb Group, and flew out of Foggia, Italy, and Vince Parker, a tail gunner who also served in Italy with the 15th U.S. Air Force, 301st Bombing Group, 32nd Bombing Squadron.

Visitors will be welcome to climb inside the B-17 and B-24 while they are staged on the Key Air ramp.

Tour prices are $12 for adults and $6 for children.

World War II veterans can tour either plane at no cost, said Hunter Chaney, Collings Foundation director or marketing.

School group discounts are available, he said.

Ground tours and display hours are Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Monday from 9 a.m. to noon.

The U.S. Eighth Air Force Historical Society’s Minnesota chapter is lead sponsor for the event.

Support is being provided by Discover Aviation Days and the Blaine Airport Promotion Group.

Key Air is located at the north end of the Anoka County-Blaine Airport.

Visit WWIIbigbombers.org or call 763-568-6072 for information and directions.

Tim Hennagir is at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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