The B’s were swarming and buzzing all over the grounds of and skies above Grimes Field on Saturday.
Several B-25 Mitchell aircraft flew in from various parts of the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo in World War II.
Hundreds of spectators snapped photos, took videos, explored the planes and some paid extra to ride in the aircraft. About 17 planes were expected in.
The event continues Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Admission is a $5 donation.
After a successful 70th Doolittle Raid anniversary event in 2012, Grimes Airport was eager to participate again, especially as this could be the final such reunion.
The last surviving Doolittle Raid pilot, retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, is 101.
“You read a lot about the Doolitle Raid and this is a chance to experience the same type of planes used in it,” said Elton Cultice, Grimes Field airport manager. “It’s history.”
The Doolittle Raid, organized by Lt. Col. James Doolittle, proved Japan was vulnerable to air attacks and was retaliation for the bombings at Pearl Harbor, boosting morale at home.
The anniversary event was a bonding experience for many visitors.
Springfield’s Steve Pratte didn’t know he was going up in the B-25 nicknamed Barbie III, in from Dallas, with his father-in-law and fellow aviation enthusiast, Bill Grigsby of Yellow Springs, who was getting an early birthday present. Pratte was more excited than nervous.
“It was real close quarters,” said Pratte. “But it was a nice, smooth ride.”
The flights took off about every half hour, taking passengers on a roughly 30-minute ride toward Wright-Patterson AFB and back.
Pilot Ben Wilson describes the Barbie III like flying a truck, but enjoys keeping history alive and has participated in a similar reunion in Dallas.
World War II buffs and Springfield residents John and Doug Joseph were comfortable on the ground. Doug is an Army veteran and a pilot.
“He flew for real and I fly remote control,” said John Joseph.
Stu Grant’s father and uncle were stationed at Wright Field during World War II and this proved a welcome flashback to his youth.
“This is my childhood. I would come out of the house and hear the plane engines,” he said.
The 2012 event got Stu’s wife Joan Grant interested as well. The Grants both retired from Wright-Patterson and live in Fairborn.
Pete Basica drove all the way from Martinsville, Virginia with his family for a very personal reason.
His dad, Peter, was a B-25 pilot in WWII and passed away in 2016 at 99. Basica considered this an honor flight in his dad’s name, taking a ride in the Devil Dog, a B-25 from Georgetown, Texas.
“This plane seems so fragile, I don’t know how they had the courage to fly in combat,” he said after touching down. “It would be like people shooting at you in a pop can.”
Basica said his dad had a lot of pride in his war role. Though they didn’t get to experience this when he was alive due to health limitations, Basica found this experience fitting.
It became complete when Basica put his dad’s hat and the Bible he received from a chaplain during the war in the cockpit and took a photo, completing his quest.
The B-25s will depart Grimes Field at 7 a.m. Monday and fly to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton where they will be on display through Tuesday, the actual date of the Doolittle Raid, where several other events will take place.
HOW TO GO
What: The 75th Anniversary celebration of the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo
Where: Grimes Field, 1636 N. Main St., Urbana
When: Sunday, April 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: $5 donation
More info: www.champaignaviationmuseum.org/