DAYTON — The National Museum of the U.S. Airforce, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, welcomed the Memphis Belle, a famed aircraft of World War II, as its newest attraction from Thursday, May 17 to Saturday, May 19. The historic Army Air Forces B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was unveiled on the 75th anniversary of the crew’s 25th mission over Europe. The addition was celebrated all weekend, when reenactors and veterans alike came to see the famous aircraft.
It was during this weekend Chase Reed, a 15-year-old from Eaton (also a Tri-County North upcoming sophomore) got to live out one of his dreams by escorting veterans to the festivities in his 1941 Willys Jeep.
He was invited to the ceremony because of the jeep and he has big plans for re-enacting with it by his side.
“I was wearing uniforms down there, but I am not in a group. The main thing I want to do is Army/Air Corps. The ceremony was really amazing for me. I have been into WWII since I was five. We actually got to see the Belle, around the second day. There was a veteran there named Buzz, I got to see him there. He was in a wheelchair, but he stood up for pictures with the Belle,” Reed said.
“He told his story, which is amazing to me, getting to see veterans tell their stories. My favorite part was seeing the Belle and getting to meet the veteran named Lucky. We took him out to the flight line so he could see the B-17 and go up to the flight deck. Recently, they let him fly a B-17 just two years ago. This is a really nice guy. I walked to him and he told me these stories. These guys were having problems keeping the B-17 stable, but he got right in the seat and stabled it out, like he did in 1940. He told us different things about the aircraft.”
Lucky was a B-17 pilot who went on 17 missions from 1943-1944. Lucky even signed the Jeep, leaving Reed with a memento of his time.
The event brought re-enactors of all types out to share their love for the time period. Reed even got to meet Rosie the Riveter re-enactors and drove them in the Jeep.
“There were these three Rosie the Riveter re-enactors that came there. The first time we got acquainted, the Jeep was not working. They came up to us as part of their act and told us they would help us fix the Jeep. That was the firs time, then we got the Jeep running again. They actually came over, we got a photo with them, and they were all nice and fit the part. We also gave them a ride in the Jeep,” Reed said.
“When we got the Jeep my goal was to meet veterans, get their stories, and possibly even write them down. At one point, sadly very soon, they will be all gone and there will be nothing for young people to learn from. I’m trying to find new veterans locally, here in Eaton, to get their stories. Getting to be in the same uniform as these guys really motivated me,” Reed said.
His mother, Deneen Reed, added, “It was awesome getting to see him do this. It really was a dream come true for him. All parents want to see that and I am proud of him. For someone his age, it is pretty neat that he is doing this for the veterans.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH