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World War II veterans get opportunity to fly bombers again

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RACINE (WITI) -- The B-17 "Flying Fortress" bomber is one of the most iconic aircraft of World War II, and on Saturday, July 27th, 12 veterans will get a chance to fly it again.

This is made possible through the "Wings of Freedom Tour."

The veterans are all members of the 8th Air Force. They flew between 1944 and 1945 -- ending with the fall of Berlin.

The men also flew in the B-24 "Liberator" -- another plane they will get a chance at on Saturday, and the North American P-51 Mustang.

The B-17 is one of only eight in flying condition in the United States, and the B-24 and Full Dual Control P-51 Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world.

The B-17 and B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945, and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish their mission.

Despite the risks of anti-aircraft fire, attacking enemy fighters and the harrowing environment of sub-zero temperatures, many B-17s and B-24s safely brought their crews home.

The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers "Little Friend" -- saving countless crews from attacking axis fighters.

The vets will be taking off from Racine Airport. The World War II vets will be able to tour the aircraft for free.

"This will be an experience for me because its been over 50 years since I've climbed in there and been able to get off the ground with it," Chet Gardeski said.

Gardeski was a flight engineer on board a B-17 bomber.

The National "Wings of Freedom" Tour is in its 24th year, and visits an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually.

The 8th Air Force Historical Society is putting on the event. The group was supposed to fly out Friday, but weather cancelled the flight.

It has been rescheduled for 8:00 a.m. Saturday.

The group will fly into the Chicago Business Executive Airport.