Photos: Veteran's spirits soar aboard B-17 - FOX 13 News

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Veteran's spirits soar aboard B-17

Updated: Friday, 11 Feb 2011
CLEARWATER (FOX 13) -

Jeffery Swierz has a flight to catch.

"I'm waiting for my dad to arrive on a B-17," he says.

His 90-year old father is on board one of only a dozen World War II bomber planes still flying.

"The only time he was on a B-17 it was either in combat or it was shot out from underneath him," Swierz continues.

It's the 15th mission for Norbert Swierz on board the plane known as a 'Flying Fortress.'  During his last flight some six decades ago, he was shot down, then held captive by the Germans. It wasn't the first time, either.

On Friday, he took a joy ride.

"When you can enjoy the ride without some yahoo shooting at you, you have to enjoy it. So I did," he says.

So did his sons, who joined him for one leg of the journey high over Tampa Bay.

Swierz served as flight engineer on a very similar B-17 -- with one noticeable exception.

"I looked for the bombs. We didn't have any bombs today, which is all right," he said.

It was all a relatively short flight that brought back a lot of memories from a long time ago.

"I was thinking about my buddies, the times we had on leave," he says.

Swierz remembers meeting Clark Gable, and the day the Queen of England waved at him.

Of course, most memories of war are not happy ones. Sweirz doesn't say much about the horror he survived or brothers-in-arms lost in battle. But he did write about some of his war stories in a book, just released. Profits help the Wings of Freedom program.

It sponsors flights like this one as a living history lesson of sorts, honoring the 'Greatest Generation' while educating the next.

Swierz doesn't feel like he deserves the accolades, but says he will never forget the ride.

"It was a great flight."

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Photos, by Chris Boex / MyFoxTampaBay.com:

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