Wings of Freedom Tour stops at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Wings of Freedom Tour stops at Chippewa Valley Regional Airport

Eau Claire (WQOW) - The control tower at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport had some unique flights to keep track of Monday. Three planes that helped allied forces win World War II landed on runway in Eau Claire Monday morning.

"It's a rare commodity to be able to walk through these things and see what these young men did," said Doug Ward, a local World War II veteran.

Having flown in a B-17 for 37 different missions during World War II, Ward knows the plane like the back of his hand.

"I was down in that belly gunner for sometimes six, seven, eight hours curled up like a ball. You couldn't have your parachute down there; the parachute was up in the plane," Ward said.

The tight quarters he experienced can be seen and shared by others as part of the wings of freedom tour at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.

My first couple missions I thought my back was going to break but I got used to it and I really liked it down there," said Ward.

Along with the B-17, one of the last few B-24's and P-51's remaining in the world are on display.

There were about 15,000 P-51's built beginning back in the 1940's. These days, there are only about 100 or so left in flying condition, and that's because most of them were scrapped once the war was over.

"The era of post World War II was the era of aluminum window frames, storm doors. The aluminum from airplanes was used for those products," said Stu Eberhardt, Collings Foundation P-51 pilot.

While kids say they wouldn't have wanted to join in the flights, the opportunity for them to take in the cramped conditions is something that needs to be experienced first hand.

"World War II was a turning point in our country's history. So weapons of World War II are history, major history of our country. And we bring these airplanes around to share that history, to keep it alive," Eberhardt said.

The planes will be on display again tomorrow from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visitors will also be able to see the planes on Wednesday from 9 a.m. until noon before they take off for their next stop on the tour.

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