Facebook Twitter

PAIN, PRIDE MINGLE AT WWII AIRSHOW

SHARE PAIN, PRIDE MINGLE AT WWII AIRSHOW

Many of the thousands of people who strolled around the flight line at Airport No. 2 Saturday were World War II veterans.

They all had a war story or two to tell as they enjoyed an airshow commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day and the American victory in World War II.Several veterans stopped to pay homage to the sleek, four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress, which carries 13 huge machine guns and holds up to six tons of bombs. The airplane helped tenderize the Nazis' flanks for Allied invasion.

But at least one man came to confront the memories of the horror wrought by that aircraft.

"I saw many, many B-17s fly over us," says Hans Keil, gently grasping his grandson's hand while looking uncomfortably toward the Flying Fortress on display. "There were hundreds of them every day, bombing us, bombing everything."

Keil was 12 years old at the time and lived in Nuremberg.

When he sees a B-17 today, he remembers the noise, the fire, the destruction, the death.

After the bombing raids, "there would be bodies stacked up, 30 to 40 high," says Keil, who immigrated to the United States in 1956 and now lives in Salt Lake City.

On occasion, B-17s crashed in the countryside. Keil and his friends used to scurry over the planes, removing light bulbs and anything else of value. He watched German civilians beat and mistreat captured airmen.

"There was a lot of hatred going on. The (anti-American) propaganda was very strong."

Though he never bombed Nuremberg, Seymour Isaacs flew 35 missions over Germany in a B-17. He says he regrets that so many civilian lives were taken in the air raids but notes that Germany's terrorist bombings of London came first.

Isaacs, who is helping to run the airshow, is proud of the job he did in Europe and believes, as do most Americans, that it was the right thing to do.

Veteran Glen Dellinger, Salt Lake City, agrees. He never saw combat action, but he helped train many of the glider pilots who flew equipment and troops into Normandy on D-Day.

He believes D-Day was vital for world peace. "It was something that had to be done. If we'd waited another few months, Germany would have had the world."

Photographing the B-17 on display, Elmo Smith, of Salt Lake City, recounts how he was a B-25 pilot assigned to the U.S. 12th Air Force in Italy. Having arrived in Europe at war's end, he saw little action but suffered personally over losses of close friends in Europe and in the Pacific.

Despite the lingering pain, Keil hopes that people will remember that the war is over and that enemies are now friends.

But his biggest hope is that one day, warplanes will become obsolete.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Airshow today

The airshow, sponsored by the Confederate Air Force, continues Sunday until 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children ages 12 and under. Airport No. 2 is at 7200 S. 4450 West.