Our Trip to See the B-17 and B-24
from the Collings Foundation
Veterans Day 1996

Veterans Day...with WWII airplanes visiting only 40 miles away. The Warmonger, the Hoodlumette and I set out from Savannah to Hilton Head. The Warmonger and the Hoodlumette shared the workload on the way over; he drove and she complained about his driving. Most of the trip was pleasant country roads, but then we reached the island. Four lanes of crazed Yankees escaping the first snow Up-Nawth made the Warmonger begin to rethink this driver's license idea.

The planes were at the general aviation facility, conspicuous among the modern personal and corporate status symbols. We made our small monetary contribution and went inside the gate.

B-17 Line I stood in line to tour the interior of the B-17. Ahead of me was a white-haired gentleman who was giving instructions to his wife as she headed for the souvenir table. "Only B-24, none of that B-17 junk!" He talked to me a while. "We carried more and went farther and faster, but they got all the press and glory!" As an old sailor, I considered telling him I felt that way about the whole damn Air Force, but I kept quiet. He finally said "Although...The B-17 was better if you got hit...You had a better chance of getting back." We were both quiet for a while after that.

Unlike the usual static museums, the people who fly warbirds let you go inside. Several of the veterans commented that the planes had gotten smaller over the years.

I enjoyed flying formation with the B-24.

B-17 Nose View

I always ask for a window seat when I fly commercial, but I've never gotten one this good.

The crowd was mixed, with a lot of kids running around, treating the relics as playground equipment. Their parents were looking around and talking about what Granddad did in the War. Granddads were there too, explaining the details and telling stories. The Warmonger observed that this was a museum where many of the visitors knew more about the displays than the hosts did.

But I watched one man in particular. He stood straight and tall, white hair blowing in the breeze, and just stared at the B-24. He didn't say a word. He didn't have to.

B-24 Nose Art B-17 Nose Art
I'm always a little bothered by the nose art on restored airplanes, it just seems a little too pretty and polished. I suspect the originals had a few drips and smears.

The Schlitz girl was actually a decal, probably originally intended for beer trucks. I hope Mr. Schlitz gave Mr. Collings a whole pot of money for this exposure. It worked on me, I bought a bunch of Schlitz the next time I went to the store. It seemed my patriotic duty.

Putting Green
Going out the gate, I noticed a manicured 9-hole putting green next to the tarmac. This is Hilton Head, after all, a choreographed place where the city government strictly regulates the size and material of fast food signs. Did the men I saw today risk life and limb to make the world safe for private golf courses? These magnificent aircraft seemed out of place in a city so dedicated to greed and materialism.


The Hoodlumette climbed a tree for a last look as we left. Looking back at her, I thought about how her life would be different if we had lost WWII. The real meaning of this Veterans Day came back to me, and I felt a lot better.

Bob McKellar

All photos by the Warmonger

The Collings Foundation has a nice website with details on the planes and the foundation's other activities.

We have a related site on the Mighty Eighth Air Force Heritage Museum and we hope you'll take a look at it.

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