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Former WWII pilot relives B-17 experience
|By JAY MEISEL | Highlands Today
Published: January 20, 2013
Though it had been almost 70 years since Marvin Goldberg flew in a B-17 bomber, the experience remained familiar when he traveled in one to the Sebring Regional Airport last Friday.
When the plane's engines started, he recalled those were the sounds he heard as a pilot of a B-17 during World War II.
His hour flight from New Smyrna Beach was part of the Wings of Freedom Tour sponsored by the Collings Foundation. The nonprofit was formed to educate people about transportation and how it affects their lives, according to the foundation website. The foundation sponsors a tour of WWII planes including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang fighter, which was named the Betty Jane, the same name as Goldberg's wife.
One of the stops for the tour was the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, which continues through today.
Goldberg's opportunity to join the tour was largely due to the efforts of his son, Bob, who arranged it as a surprise.
"It sounded pretty good," Goldberg said, when his son told him about it Friday.
The B-17 was the same model plane he piloted during the war, he said.
He served in the 8th Air Force Squadron, 91st Bombing Group, during the war from late 1944 to 1945, shortly before Germany surrendered, he said.
Goldberg said he piloted 35 bombing missions and returned successfully, though, "I had never been a pilot" before he entered the Air Force, he said.
He was stationed in England and his missions mainly involved targets in northern Germany, he said, adding that Berlin was one destination.
The closest call, he said, was when "a shell went right through the airplane, but never exploded. It was our good fortune that it was a dud," he said.
"After it was over, we would sit and laugh about it," Goldberg said.
On a sadder note, he recalled that there "were so many comrades, who weren't able to live to the age of 24."
Although he wasn't able to pilot the plane on Friday, he sat in the radio operator's room, he said.
During the war, Goldberg corresponded as much as possible with Betty Jane Cohen, his fiancée, and told her about his experiences piloting a B-17.
Until Friday, however, she never had the opportunity to ride one. She joined her husband, their son and a granddaughter.
"I was a little scared at first," Betty Jane Goldberg said.
But her husband's assurances helped her enjoy the flight, she said.
That he could put her at ease is hardly surprising since they've been married for 66 years. "When the war was over we didn't waste any time (in getting married)," he said.