Old bomber pilot rides on B-24 Liberator

Old bomber pilot rides on B-24 Liberator
Local WWII pilot steps back in history with traveling tour (Source: WOIO)
Local WWII pilot steps back in history with traveling tour (Source: WOIO)

RICHMOND HEIGHTS, OH (WOIO) - Bob Gunton was a B-24 bomber pilot in World War II.

Thursday, he saw the last flying version of the heavy bomber, one named Witchcraft.

Gunton was helped on board, the propellers were cranked, the engines roared, they taxied and were off.

Bob is one of the lucky ones. The average crew member survived only seven missions, according to Ryan Keough with the Wings of Freedom tour that displays the B-24, a B-17 and a P-51 Mustang fighter around the country.

"In the early days of the strategic bombing it was considered suicide to start and do this," Keough said.

At the end of the flight, we got an answer from Bob that is typical of the greatest generation when we asked "what was it like?"

"It was like flying a B-24," Bob said.

That is probably true, but very different than the conditions over Europe in the war, according to Keough.

"There's no oxygen up there, these airplanes weren't pressurized so it was minus 40 to minus 50 degrees," Keough said.

The B-24 is not a plane made for comfort. Crew members had to crawl on hands and knees to get to the navigator position. The pilot would have to crawl through to get up into the pilot and co-pilot seats.

"The average age for the crew member was 19. The aircraft commander was probably 20, 21. He might be the old man," said pilot Jim Goosby.

Bob is an older man now, but his memory is vivid of 33 missions, flying lead on about half of them.

"Had about 40 airplanes behind me doing what I was doing," Bob said.

What he and the others did helped win the war.

The B-24 carried between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds of bombs.

The Wings of Freedom display runs through noon Friday at Cuyahoga County Airport.

It moves to Akron Canton Airport for the weekend.

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