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    • An incredible man in our neighborhood enlisted in WWII and became a bombardier on a B24, flying missions out of Africa to bomb Romanian fuel depots. A few of us asked him to speak to a group of teens a few years ago and for the first time since the war he agreed. He said most veterans wouldn't because they didn't want to come off as bragging, plus it was hard to talk about.

      What convinced him to speak is the idea that history wouldn't be appreciated by two generations removed unless he did his part. As he drove up highway 101 in Mountain View, CA, deep in thought about his talk, he said "I heard the unmistakable sweet sound of a B24, the only one in the world that still flies." The runway for NASA begins right beside 101 and he happened to be where the B24 flew low right over the hood of his car as it landed.

      He gave an incredible talk the next day that I and everyone in attendance will never forget. That B24 was here on tour then and you could buy tickets to fly in it. I offered to buy two and go up with him, but he said no, it wasn't safe back then and it's not safe now.

      If you could survive 50 missions, which he barely did, they said that's enough and sent you home. When Jack and his wife Ginny turned 90, we threw a huge party in a church gym with a brass band to honor them:

      Jack passed away a few days ago and his memorial service is Saturday, two days from now. By coincidence, that B24 is returning to NASA's airfield tomorrow. I am going to tour it when it lands and think of Lt. Knell of the greatest generation, who remained great until the day he died. Thank you, Jack.

    • I’ll be forever grateful I heard him talk about his experiences. Nothing can compare to having an eye-witness to history sit in the same room as you and see in his eyes the impact of events you’ve only read about in books.

    • What incredible timing!

      Jack had his last days right next door to our home, which gave me the opportunity to sit with him a few days before he passed. He told me that there wasn’t a single thing on his list left undone, he had done everything he could possibly want to do in this life, had every adventure. He will probably be the only person I hear say those words who I will actually believe completely. When it comes to Jack Knell, I believe he really lived his life to the fullest, had no regrets and was ready to see his adorable Ginny again. I can only smile when I think about him.

    • This is a B24 like Jack flew preparing to take a flight of tourists. You can see from the pilot that it's ginormous, with four 1200 horsepower motors.

      Colonel Harry pointed out that the number of bombs on the side is the number of missions it flew. It's the last remaining B24 that flies and the crew told me it was hella expensive to restore.

      This is Colonel Harry. He says he's much too young to have fought in WWII, but he fought in Korea and Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He's 87.

      On the other side are the names of crew members for this plane:

      Wow. I wonder what their stories are:

      What must it have been like for the three gunners in the front turret? The noise, cold, bumpy air, bullets, fear of death...

      Jack said there wasn't much room in the turret under the belly and you were a sitting duck:

    • The B25 carried tourists too. Not as big, but still impressive.

      It turns out the B24 flies right over my house as it carries tourists who try to imagine what it was like to fly missions. It's here for 5 days each year and I hear each loop it flies. Sometimes I look up and think of Jack.

    • This was an amazing man doing what was needed to assure our future. Flying an amazing plane 18,500 B-24 Liberators were built during WWII and flown by these brave men.