The following contribution comes courtesy of Kevin Bailey, a Volunteer Photographer for the Vietnam War Flight Museum:
A big tip of the hat to Southwest Airlines for sponsoring not only the July 4 Freedom Fest in downtown Houston, but also for sponsoring a pair of beautiful World War II ‘Warbird’ formations that flew over the crowds in the late afternoon. Just as the day’s music prvided some big sounds, and the night’s pyrotechnics had their big bangs, local Warbirds supplied the afternoon’s big rumbles.
At around 6:15 PM the first group arrived, moving in from the west. From Town & Country on in, people who were outside and heard the rumble of big piston engines moved like a wheat field in the breeze, turning their heads skyward to see the machines of our Greatest Generation. In the lead was the majestic, four-engine B-17G ‘Thunderbird’ heavy bomber from Galveston’s Lone Star Flight Museum, easily one of the most recognizeable airplanes around. On either side were matching twin-engine A-26 Invader attack bombers of the Hobby-based Vietnam War Flight Museum. A-26s ‘Million Airess’, once named ‘Guns For Hire’, and ‘Fire Eaters’, have an extensive history not only of military service but were also featured prominently in the 1989 firefighter movie ‘Always’, with Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman.
The second wave at around 8 PM included Lone Star’s B-25 ‘Mitchell’ twin-engine, twin tail bomber, and two TF-51 Mustang single-engine fighters, ‘Bum Steer’ and ‘Galveston Gal’. Lone Star has a popular program in Galveston where paying customers can ride on flights in several of their Warbirds, from the open-cockpit Stearman trainer all the way up to Thunderbird.
I had the singlular thrill of being in the nose of one of the Invaders for the formation, very much on the job photographing the maneuvers of the first wave from a unique perspective. While July 4 is usually celebrated with picnics fireworks, Southwest has done a very good thing by honoring our men and women in uniform on Independence Day. It is in no small part that for all these years, we’re still here because they were there. For all our veterans as well as active servicemen and women, thanks again, and thanks always.
Vietnam War Flight Museum