Flying Fortress Second World War bomber visits Eugene, Oregon

A bit of Second World War flying history, a B-17 Flying Fortress, called the ‘Madra Maiden’ touched down March 6 at Eugene, Ore., as part of a continuing effort to teach people about the war against the Axis powers, and the airmen who served.

The silver, four-engine bomber arrived from Portland, where substantial rain kept it on the tarmac for the remainder of the afternoon. But 95-year-old Alton Richard Andrews, who goes by ‘Andy,’ was still happy to stroll through a familiar part of history.

He was a bombardier in the 398th Bomb Group, he said, and the Fortress was a good place provided it did not get hit by anti-aircraft flak.

B-17 Flying Fortress The Liberty Belle, similar to ‘Madra Maiden’. Photo Credit
B-17 Flying Fortress The Liberty Belle, similar to ‘Madra Maiden’. Photo Credit

Andrews was shot down over Munich and put in a prison camp, he explained.

First planned and built by Boeing aircraft in Seattle in 1934, 12,000 B-17s were made during World War II. Now, only 12 remain flying in the world.

The Flying Fortress carried a crew of 10. They bombarded the Third Reich and its allies, while fighting off enemy fighters with its complement of 13 machine guns.

Liberty Foundation volunteers David Keller says missions were trying.

When the first missions began, the life expectancy was half-a-dozen missions, Keller explained. So the crewmen realized when they first went over to Europe, they were due to fly 25 missions, but your life expectancy was six. It isn’t hard to do the arithmetic.

Of those men, he has never heard one call themselves a hero, they always considered the guys who died to be the heroes, he said.

A fellow volunteer, Jerry Ritter, said the Liberty Foundation flies the Madras Maiden around to educate visitors about the ‘Greatest Generation.’

Because those guys quite literally rescued the world, Ritter added. They and their mates, and the women and men who built the aircraft, defeated the supreme evil in world history, KLCC reported.

The B-17 is open to the public on March 11th and 12th. There is no charge for tours, while a flight costs $450 per person to offset the $1.5 million annual maintenance and operating costs.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE