WW2 Weekend at the Dixie Wing
WORLD WAR TWO WEEKEND AT THE DIXIE WING
A COLORFUL AND NOSTALGIC EVENT
The Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) puts on a great show in April of every year paying tribute to the men and women who served in the armed forces and in the arsenal of democracy during the Second World War. As you approach the people assembled in this celebratory event, it feels as though you are in a time warp. Young women are attired in fashionable clothing of the 1940s. Others appear as field nurses or women who served in the armed forces. There was at least one “Rosie the Riveter,” a young lady attired in blue coveralls with a red scarf around her head.
The men, not wanting to be outdone, are festooned in smart military dress uniforms or alternatively in convincing combat gear. The U.S. Army Air Corps was well represented as well as the infantry, the Navy and the Marine Corps. However, the Axis Powers were well represented by men adorned in German Luftwaffe uniforms complete with Iron Crosses and other military medals. The Wehrmacht was in attendance, as well as members of the German infantry decked out in authentic battle uniforms.
As you walk around and observe the re-enactors, you feel certain that there must be a Second World War picture being filmed and you just stumbled into the canteen during a lunch break. The spirit and enthusiasm of the event is infectious. No effort has been spared to transport you back in time when America experienced the achievements of its greatest generation.
The Imperial Japanese Army was represented by a number of young men who appeared to be high school students. They had mastered elements of Japanese verbal communications and would respond dutifully to the orders bellowed out by their commander. They made a point to parade in front of my replica Nakajima Type 97 Navy bomber.
Army Air Corps aircrew members complete with authentic uniforms, parachutes and oxygen bail out bottles posed for photographs in front of the Consolidated B-24A/LB-30.
THE CAF B-24 DIAMOND LIL
One of the heights of Saturday afternoon, April 18, was the appearance of the CAF B-24, “Diamond Lil.” The aircraft is a very early series B-24, Serial Number 18. Built for export to the French, she was constructed to LB-30 standards. The LB-30 was an export version of the B-24 that could be operated as a bomber or as a transport aircraft. With the fall of France in the spring of 1940, the aircraft was taken on strength by the Royal Air Force so RAF pilots could receive training. Early in her operational career, the aircraft was heavily damaged in a landing accident. She was struck off charge with the RAF. As work moved forward to repair the aircraft, she had been eclipsed by events. A number of modifications and improvements had been made to the B-24 series of aircraft, such as power operated gun turrets, with the result that returning the aircraft to flight status as a bomber was no longer practical. So, the Army Air Force, in the course of the repairs, modified the aircraft to serve only as a transport. A walkway from the waist turret stations to the cockpit was installed over the bomb bay area, and a cargo door was installed in the aft port fuselage area.
Joe Broker, a retired Delta Captain and longstanding Dixie Wing CAF member gave me a brief tour of the front office. The cockpit is littered with a plethora of powerplant and performance gauges. The B-24 is a massive aircraft built with beam and truss structures one would see in building a bridge or a massive seaplane. It is perhaps no coincidence, since consolidated built the PBY Catalina patrol bomber using similar tried and true technology.
As you walk around the aircraft, the massive nature of the structural components is apparent. The landing gear legs of the main landing gear appear to be over ten feet in height. The hydraulic actuators that pump the main gear legs up and down are clearly visible along with the landing gear up locks, the mechanism that holds the main landing gear in the retracted position. The structural and system elements are all recognizable. It is the massive size of the components that is out of the ordinary.
THE EVENING DINNER AND DANCE
The social and entertainment highlight of World War Two Weekend is the Saturday evening dinner and dance. The evening begins with dinner accompanied by an orchestra that plays songs popular in the 1940s. Those desiring to do so may dance to those popular tunes.
It is not uncommon to see persons dressed in full military attire as General Douglas MacArthur and General Adolf Galland. Members of the various armed forces tend to congregate in common areas. After dinner, many of the re-enactors assemble outside the Dixie Wing Hangar where photos are taken of the participants in the company of period aircraft or automobiles. Besides the orchestra, there are performances by a trio of ladies who sing such favorites as “There’ll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You in All the Familiar Places.”
UNTIL NEXT YEAR
Despite rain and fog, the Dixie Wing’s 2015 World War Two Weekend was well attended. The quality of the displays and entertainment is a testament to the members of the Dixie Wing who worked with devotion to ensure the event was a success. I hope to see you there next year.