Everyone was sad to see him go, because Bob may require kidney dialysis soon. If so, it will restrict his availability for another reunion. After we said our goodbyes, we loaded everyone into the Death Van for a trip to the Tennesse Museum of Aviation. It has a nice collection of WWII aircraft, including this magnificent P-51 Mustang, the fighter that Co-Pilot Hank B* trained to fly:
Here’s a cool TBM Avenger torpedo bomber, which was equipped with folding wings so it could be carried on aircraft carriers. It carried a crew of three, including a pilot, a radio operator (who also doubled as a gunner, firing a downward-facing gun mounted under the tail) and a turret gunner, who fired an upward-facing gun mounted in an electrically operated turret behind the cockpit:
And this is an airworthy P-47D Thunderbolt, the largest single-engine fighter aircraft produced for WWII.
You’ll notice large oil drip pans under the aircraft. My father told me that oil leakage was a characteristic of all radial engines used during WWII. Before every takeoff in the B-29, the ground crew was required to manually rotate the propeller blades through four complete revolutions, ensuring that adequate oil was lifted into the cylinders.
They had some more contemporary aircraft as well, including this F-86 Saberjet, and a Soviet MIG-17:
One interesting display consisted of two components of the famous top secret Norden bombsight, which my father used during the war. This bombsight was carried to the bombers under armed guard and installed just prior to each mission, then removed to a secure bunker afterwards. If an aircraft was forced to ditch or land in enemy territory, bombardiers were under strict instructions to destroy the bombsight by emptying a clip from their .45 caliber sidearm into it.
In the gift shop, my brother-in-law was browsing through the book section, and found a book called "Nose Art." It contained images culled from the national archives and private collections of the girlie pictures found on military aircraft.
And on page 190, he found my father’s aircraft. It was a huge surprise, and he bought the book for my dad. This almost makes up for his poor navigation on the drive out to Tennessee.
After the museum, we had lunch in a country-style restaurant built around an old farmhouse located in an apple orchard. They serve a basket of delicious apple fritters with every meal. In my opinion, these things should be illegal:
Later, the ladies wandered through the gift shops, while the crew hung out swapping stories and jokes in the orchard, which was just starting to bud out with the promise of a new crop.