Remembering the Past – Honoring the Present at the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

 

 

By Raven West

On Saturday, June 8th, more than 150 visitors of all ages attended the Aviation Museum in Camarillo to hear a riveting presentation by retired U.S. Air Force Captain Robert “Lips” Hertberg (recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross) of the events that occurred on June 6, 1944.

Col. Ron Fleishman – Historian

The crowd sat in silent awe while watching reels of black and white film shot on that fateful day when more than 4,000 ships, 11,000 warplanes and 156,000 Allied forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region in the Battle of Normandy that resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control, effectively ending the war in Europe.

The “D-Day & the P-51 Mustang – A Living History” presentation was hosted by the Commemorative Air Force – Southern California Wing (CAF

WWII vet Johathan Cooper (sitting) with son Veteran Stephen

SoCal) whose members include Historian Col. Ron Fleishman who presented the history of the P-51D Man O’ War and Maintenance Specialist Col. Trace Eubanks who spoke on the difficulties finding parts to maintain the many aircraft that are on display at the museum.

“Our volunteers work tirelessly to keep these planes airworthy,” Eubanks explained. “But like the pilots and the crews that flew these planes, they’re getting older and harder to keep in good condition because parts aren’t being manufactured for them anymore. Upkeep is very expensive, so we rely on donations and air show ticket sales to help defray the cost.”

The WWII fighter planes, including the P-51 Mustang Man O’War were on display for museum visitors to get a close-up and hands-on experience from inside the cargo bay, where paratroopers would line-up and link-up waiting their turn to jump, to the cockpit where experienced pilots maneuvered the aircraft through treacherous skies, and aerial gunner positions who helped keep the plane and cargo safe from the enemy.  

Col. Trace Eubanks – Mechanic

While most visitors felt a distant connection to the images and events which occurred long before they were born, for one special veteran, these planes on display were more of a reunion with old friends who shared memories as real as the day they first met.

Chief Master Sergeant John Cooper, USAF was on the maintenance crew when the first several aircraft, battered and bruised, arrived home from the war. Although he never personally fought in WWII, watching the paratroopers and the airplanes on the tiny screen during the presentation brought back memories of the thousands who had, and the hundreds who didn’t make it home.

“The pilots would sit around with us during breaks and share their experiences, both the wins and the losses. We got all sorts of horror stories from them. Watching this today, I can still hear their voices, even though most of them are long gone.”

Vietnam Vet Col. Hugh Richards Museum Docent

Standing proudly by his father’s side, Stephen Cooper told how his father had inspired him to join the Air Force as a Navigator for the C-130.

“I always felt the spirit of those brave pilots, and those who maintained our planes were with me on every flight,” Stephen said.

On August 31, CAF-SoCal Wing will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the beginning of WWII with a special presentation “Where Pilots Begin – The Iconic SNJ” the trainer plane used by more than 40 countries in the ultimate fight for freedom.

The WWII Aviation Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM, Sunday 12-4PM and closed on Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

The Museum accepts donations: Adults – $10.00; Students (10-18) – $5.00; Children (6-10) – $3.00; Children under 6 and Current Military – No Charge.

For information on future events visit: Commemorative Air Force – Southern California Wing

Robert Herberg

Photo Credits: Raven West

Raven West is a free-lance writer and published author who has lived in Ventura County for more than twenty years. She has an extensive knowledge of local wineries from Thousand Oaks to Ojai and will be covering special events which take place at the tasting rooms throughout the year.Named in the TOP 50 Authors by Authorsdb.com


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