Our second day of driving included two stops that opened a window to my parents’ lives before I was born: In Dayton, we started our day at the National Museum of the US Airforce where we saw a B-52 that my dad flew in Vietnam, and in Indiana, we made a side trip to DePauw University, where my mom went for the first two years of college.
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At the Air Force museum, we got to see a B-52 that may have been one of the actual ones Dad flew in Vietnam. He couldn’t be sure because he thought they’d added a different number when they restored the plane, but he said there were about 100 of this particular plane and he flew about 80 of them.
The plane was raised so you could look up into the bomb bay. Once, when Dad was flying, one of the bombs got stuck and they couldn’t shake it loose. To make matters worse, the pin that keeps the propeller that activates the bomb from spinning until it is dropped had been pulled loose, so they had no way of knowing if the bomb was active. Ultimately, they had to land with it.
The flight gear that Dad wore. He was co-pilot.
This was the operation Dad flew. They took off from Guam and bombed Viet Cong supply routes through South Vietnam and Laos. Later in the war, his former crew — including two of the members he flew with — were the lead plane in the December 1972 Operation Linebacker attacks on Hanoi. They returned for two more times and on the third were shot down and captured as prisoners. Fortunately, they did not have long to wait before the peace agreement and were released.
I can’t get over how enormous the B-52 is. Dad also pointed out a number of smaller planes he flew in training, etc.
In Greencastle, Indiana, we visited the campus of DePauw University, where Mom went for her first two years of college.
We found Mom’s old dorm! Matt and I listened in amazement to her stories of 1960s college life, complete with curfews and candle ceremonies held to mark the occasion when a girl is “pinned” or becomes engaged. The girls would gather in a circle and pass a candle around — the number of times had something to do with whether it was a pre-engagement pinning or full engagement — and finally they would find out who it was when that person blew out the candle.
Mom was sitting on the curb sketching this church when she found out the Cardinals had won the 1964 World Series.