The Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, California, celebrated World War II airplanes and combat survivors at a recent event named Luftwaffe vs. the Eighth Air Force. The museum’s own Focke-Wulf FW-190 replica wowed the crowd with several fly-bys over the museum after a two-hour presentation of speakers.
The FW-190 and Messerschmidt BF-109 were the main defenders of the German territory during WWII. Through their use as day and night fighters, ground attack aircraft and fighter-bombers, these airplanes were the nemesis of the Allied countries’ WWII bomber airplanes. It wasn’t until the North American P-51 was introduced to protect the bombers that these airplanes could be successfully fought.
Several presenters spoke on the topic, including Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, who spoke at length about American fighter pilots and squadrons of the day. McKelvey Cleaver had a chance to befriend several prominent WWII combat pilots during his research for a book on the topic. Most of those pilots have since passed away.
Former Luftwaffe pilot Jorg Czypionka enchanted the audience as he spoke of his days as a fighter pilot flying the BF-109. Czypionka, who was a very successful combat pilot, survived a harrowing mission when his airplane was shot down and he was forced to parachute at night onto the roof of a factory. He was also an early pilot of the Messerschmidt Me-262, the first operational fighter jet. Czypionka flew his first combat mission in the Me-262 after about 45 minutes of ground training and a short introductory flight.
Wilbur Richardson also had the crowd on the edge of the seats as he spoke of his missions in a gun turret of a B-17 bomber. With 30 missions under his belt, Richardson survived a gunshot wound to the thigh and one major engine fire, an incident during which he quickly alerted the pilot to shut the engine down. The pilot complied before asking questions, a swift response that Richardson claims saved the lives of the entire crew.
The event was part of the Planes of Fame’s monthly Living History Flying Day series.