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WWII aircraft to descend on New Orleans this weekend

The B-17 Flying Fortress is parked at Lakefront Airport during the 2015 expo after a flight with veterans who operated the same type of aircraft during World War II.
The B-17 Flying Fortress is parked at Lakefront Airport during the 2015 expo after a flight with veterans who operated the same type of aircraft during World War II. Special to The Advocate

More than seven decades later, Edward Gray still vividly remembers the first time he saw a B-29.

Then a pilot of a P-47 fighter based in Saipan in 1944, Lt. Gray was on patrol off the coast of the island when he and his squad received a report of approaching “bogies,” or unidentified, possibly hostile aircraft.

Instead, they saw the rumored new addition to the Seventh Air Force, the “Superfortress,” which would ultimately deliver the atomic bombs to end World War II.

“It was bigger than anything I’d ever seen,” Gray said recently. “The nose looked like a big bay window.

“We dipped our wings to them and they came in low and did the victory roll back to us and the ground crew. You talk about a beautiful piece of machinery.”

Gray, now 98 and living in Dallas, would later switch to P-38s and escort the B-29s in more than 30 strikes against Iwo Jima, Okinawa and finally, Japan itself. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

But he never actually got to ride in a B-29.

Until this weekend.

Gray will be aboard “Fifi,” a restored B-29 on its flight from Dallas to Lakefront Airport where it will be the star attraction at the National World War II Museum’s third WWII AirPower Expo.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever even been inside one,” said Gray, who will participate in the veteran meet-and-greets. “I don’t think they’re going to ask me to take the wheel, but I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s going to bring back a lot of memories. I know I’m going to be thinking a lot about my buddies from back then.”

Read the full story at The New Orleans Advocate.

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