|By Carmelo Turdo|
The B-29, once known as the only Very Heavy Bomber when it became operational in the Pacific Theater of Operations in 1944, is the type of aircraft that dropped the two atomic bombs on Japan to bring a quicker end to World War II. After the war, some B-29s remained in service but they were replaced by the B-50 in the bomber, reconnaissance and tanker roles during and following the Korean War. The B-29, "Fifi," was produced in 1945 and was not used in combat. It served stateside in supporting roles until retired in 1958 to the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station range. The Commemorative Air Force received the aircraft in 1971 and performed a lengthy restoration to flying status so that future generations can experience the aircraft in a more peaceful atmosphere.
The Aero Experience was pleased to meet World War II veteran Mr. Calvin Koelling and his family from Pacific, MO. Mr. Koelling served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater of Operations with the 38th Infantry Division in 1944-1945. His unit participated in operations in New Guinea, The Philippines, and Luzon. He was wounded in the fighting, and spent the remainder of his service time on Okinawa after the Japanese surrender. Mr. Koelling said that he witnessed B-29 flights during his service and saw the bombers on Okinawa before he was discharged. He remarked that he had an opportunity to fly in a B-29, but preferred to stay on the ground. Today he also remained on the ground around the B-29 "Fifi," but was content to get a good look at her. When offered a heart-felt thank you for his service, he gave the typical Greatest Generation reply, "I just did what anyone else would have done." And he helped give the Western World another chance to be free for another two generations.
The Commemorative Air Force AirPower History Tour will remain at Spirit of St. Louis Airport through Sunday, with flights available on Saturday and Sunday. Special thank you goes out to the Commemorative Air Force, TAC Air St. Louis and the Koelling family for their hospitality.