B-17 to mark Sentimental Journey into past

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

The Sentimental Journey is one of 10 B-17 bombers still flying in the world, and will be stopping by the Lewistown Municipal Airport June 8 and 9. The plane’s arrival is part of the airport’s 75th anniversary of training B-17 bombers during WWI.

Photos courtesy of Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona

A 1944 B-17, one of ten still flying in the world, is landing in Lewistown June 8 and 9, and its presence will help commemorate the 75th anniversary of Lewistown Municipal Airport’s use as a World War II B-17 training ground.

The facility was transformed into an Army Air Force airfield in 1942, according to Airport Manager Jerry Moline.

“B-17 crews and support staff were trained here prior to being deployed overseas,” he said.

The military’s Central Montana choice was calculated, Moline added.

“It was sparsely populated and there was a lack of light pollution,” he said. “This country was black out here. They didn’t have a lot of electricity, and didn’t have a lot of people.”

The airport’s anniversary caught the attention of the local Montana Pilots’ Association chapter last fall. Now, Secretary Donald Hartrich said, this year’s annual fly-in and pancake breakfast is themed “A B-17 Weekend.”

The visiting B-17 bomber, known as the Sentimental Journey, tours the nation each year from its home at the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Airbase. Although Lewistown wasn’t originally on the flight plan, Hartrich and other local MPA members knew it would be perfect for the upcoming anniversary.

“I got on the internet, I found out how many B-17s were flying in the U.S. and I pounded the dirt,” he said.

The Sentimental Journey’s arrival will be a perfect kickoff for the weekend’s opening event, according to Hartrich.

“We’re having a World-War-II-themed big band dance in the restored B-17 hangar,” he said.

The New Harold Nicholls Big Band will play live, and guests are encouraged to dress up in 1940s style, or their military uniforms. Hartrich added there will even be a themed costume contest for the ladies.

“We’re having a Rosie the Riveter, and a Little Miss Rosie the Riveter, look-a-like contest,” he said, explaining there were two categories, one for ladies and one for young girls.

While the evening promises fun events, it is also set to honor veterans past and present. Hartrich said the night will open with a presentation of colors by the American Legion, and a remembrance of those missing or killed during war.

Don Bost, local American Legion commander, said a tribute to POWs and MIAs is an integral part of their ceremonies.

“It involves placing a flag on an empty chair,” he explained. “There’s a little dissertation that goes with it. It’s a real solemn ceremony, but it really hits home for those who have served in areas of combat.”

Bost and the American Legion are happy to be involved with the airport’s commemorative event.

“The anniversary celebration is really cool because it’s about veterans this time,” he said. “Also, it’s part of our job as the American Legion post to present the colors and other things. This is what we do for our community and our nation.”

The Sentimental Journey will come in on Friday, June 8, and stay until late afternoon Saturday. For more information on flight tickets, dance tickets or any other part of “A B-17 Weekend,” contact Donald Hartrich at HCR at 538-7781.

 

 

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For more information on the "Rosie the Riveter" look-a-like contest, contact Stacey Martinez at 406-740-2737.

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