World War II vet welcomes vintage aircraft in Fort Worth

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 10:01 AM

FORT WORTH — Engines roared, and the big propellers on a World War II vintage B-17 bomber spun to life at Meacham Airport Monday.

"They sound good," Andy Shafer smiled. "You can't beat a Wright Cyclone."

And you can't blame Andy Shafer for saying so. Those Wright Cyclone engines brought him through flak and enemy fighters over Germany 33 times in 1944 and '45.

On Shafer's first mission as a radio operator, he was only 19. Now 88, he checked out the two WWII-era bombers currently in Fort Worth — a B-17 named Nine O Nine and a B-24 named Witchcraft.

Among other spectators was the son of a fighter pilot.

"He got hit in the back, in the gas tank," James Greene said. "Big explosion. They thought he was gone."

Greene's dad survived to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross for protecting bomber crews in a P-51 Mustang. A restored P-51 is touring along with the bombers.

The planes belong to the Collings Foundation. Their pilots barnstorm cities to keep military history alive.

During World War II, Fort Worth built thousands of B-24s. The Collings Foundation said Witchcraft is the only combat version still flying.

The warbirds will be at Fort Worth's Meacham Airport until early Wednesday afternoon.

For $425, you can take a ride in a bomber, but looking is free. Veterans like Andy Shafer saw to that.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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