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A Sentimental Journey for me


Mark La Ciura

This B-17G Flying Fortress is nicknamed Sentimental Journey.

I had a fantastic time at the L.A. County Air Show 2018 but that's nothing new to me. I have been going to air shows from the first day I got my driver's license. I use to get my World War II veteran dad and my mom to go because they loved all the fantastic War Bird aircraft that brought back some good and bad memories. I saw the effects and raw emotion on their faces because they lived through it.

So I appreciated seeing this B-17G to the fullest. Sentimental Journey (44-83514) is the nickname of a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber. It is based at the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Mesa, Arizona. The aircraft is regularly flown to airshows throughout North America.

The nose art features Betty Grable, the number one pinup girl of the World War II era. The aircraft's name takes after a song made very popular by Doris Day in 1945.

After coming out of storage from 1947, the B-17G was reconfigured as a RB-17B for a new role in photo-mapping and assigned to Clark Field in Manila.

In 1950, the aircraft was transferred to Eglin Field, Florida and converted to a DB-17G for service as an air-sea rescue craft. During the 1950s, it was modified to a DB-17P standard, serving with the 3215th Drone Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. One of its important missions was “Operation Greenhouse”, the fourth postwar atmospheric nuclear weapon test series conducted by the United States during the spring of 1951. As a mother ship, the RB-17P directed unmanned, radio controlled B-17 drone aircraft to measure blast and thermal effects and to collect radioactive cloud samples. During the test, a drone aircraft would be taken off by ground control. A “mother ship”, already airborne, would then come from behind, take control of the drone and fly it to the target area.

On 27 January 1959, the aircraft was transferred to military storage at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. After a few months storage, 83514 was acquired by the Aero Union Corporation of Chico, California, receiving civilian aircraft registration: N-9323Z. For 18 years, the converted bomber flew as a forest fire fighter throughout the United States.

On 14 January 1978, at a membership banquet for the newly formed Arizona wing of the Commemorative Air Force, Colonel Mike Clarke announced the donation of the aircraft to the CAF for assignment to the Arizona Wing.

This is just some of the fantastic history of this work horse of an aircraft and just one of the many reasons going to any air show is a great learning experience.

For more information on this B-17G go to


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