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Wings of Freedom tour of World War II-era aircraft back in Carroll County

The Collings Foundation, a private organization dedicated to preserving and depicting America's aviation history, is continuing its Wings of Freedom World War II living history program this weekend at Carroll County Regional Airport.

As in past years, three of the foundation's vintage WWII-era airplanes — a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell — are in Westminster for a weekend of tours and flights across Carroll County.

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The annual World War II-era "Hangar Social" dance will also be held Saturday night, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The charge for the dance is $10, with free admission for all World War II and Korean War veterans.

Several reenactors are also on hand, as are two veterans of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

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The Tuskegee Airman "were a totally African-American squadron, during those years of segregation," said Dennis Gore, local Wings of Freedom coordinator. The airmen's exploits were depicted in the 1996 movie, "The Tuskeegee Airmen."

"These guys are in their upper 80s or even their 90s now, so even though they are scheduled to be there, there might be health issues that come up" Gore said earlier this week. "But hopefully we will have two of the airmen with us this weekend."

Also appearing is Lt. Gottfried Dulius, a German Luftwaffe pilot whose ME-109 was shot down over the Russian front in March, 1945.

Dulius was held as a Russian prisoner of war and, after his release in the 1950s, moved to the United States. On Sunday, he's scheduled to be on hand selling and autographing copies his war-time memoir, "Another Bowl of Kapusta."

Gore says about 3,000 people attended last year's Wings of Freedom weekend at the airport, and he was expecting a similar turn-out for this weekend's activities.

The planes and guests are scheduled to arrive in Westminster Friday around noon, and the gates will be open for tours from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday the exhibits will be open to spectators from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They will also be open Monday from 10 a.m. until noon, when the planes and distinguished visitors lift off for their next demonstration.

Admission price is a suggested donation of $12 for adults and $6 for children

Thirty-minute flights on the vintage planes are also being offered throughout the weekend and Monday morning, at a cost of $425. But they must be booked in advance by calling 1-800-568-8924.

"Anyone who wants to can also book in person at the airport for a flight the next day," Gore added.

Gore says, even after all the years he's served as the local Wings of Freedom ground coordinator, it's still a thrill for him to ride in the vintage planes. It's an even bigger thrill, he adds, to pay tribute to the nation's "Greatest Generation."

"It's really important," he added, "because we're running out of time to hear the history directly from the people who made the history."

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Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story included a statement that the Tuskegee Airmen was the only escort fighter group that never lost a bomber to enemy planes. Tuskegee historian Ron Brewington contacted us and said that record is a popular "myth," but actually is not accurate.

In 2007, the Associated Press reported that researchers studying Air Force records and other documents showed that some bombers were downed by enemy planes, and Brewington cited an Air Force Historical Agency report that states 27 bombers were lost.

In that report, author Dr. Daniel Haulman, chief of the Organization History Division of the Air Force Historical Research Agency, notes that, "Despite their best efforts, the Tuskegee Airmen could not prevent … enemy aircraft from shooting down bombers they were protecting. Sometimes the number of bombers they had to cover and the number of enemy fighters that attacked the bombers were significantly greater than the number of escort fighters. The 'never lost a bomber' statement is not accurate, but the courage and valor of the Tuskegee Airmen survives.' "

The Eagle is happy to pass along that additional information. For more on the Tuskegee Airmen, go to http://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/tuskegee/airoverview.htm.

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