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Essay contest gives WWII vet a ride in his old plane, 68 years later

He was just a kid when he signed up to defend our country as an Army Air Corpsman during World War II in the Pacific, but Fred Charles remembers it like it was yesterday. And he got to relive those memories this weekend during an air show for vintage planes in Everett.

The Historic Flight Foundation held an essay contest offering a chance to ride in DC-3s at The Vintage Aircraft Weekend show at Paine Field in Everett. When Fred’s son heard about it, he wrote about his father’s service in the war flying the military equivalent of a DC-3: the C-47.

Fred said he didn’t even know about the contest until his son told him they’d been picked to fly in the air show.

“The airplane was so different from what we flew, it was really kind of plush inside there. And it was quite insulated so the noise level was level,” Fred recounted. “The flight itself brought back so many memories that I hadn’t really given much thought to for years.”

Fred was part of the 317th Troop Carrier Group in the Army Air Corps. Within the group, he was in the 41st Troop Carrier Squadron, which started flying in New Guinea, then Australia, around islands in the Philippines, and finally in Japan.

Twenty-four planes were sent from Okinawa to Atsugi Airport on August 18, 1945 to deliver communications equipment for the signing of the Japanese surrender. Fred still remembers that flight 68 years ago:

“At daylight, we broke out there into the clear and there was old Mount Fuji,” said Fred. “The sun was rising and that old mountain, the snow cap was up there and it was one of the prettiest mornings I remember seeing.”

Dori could hardly imagine military men and women as young as Fred taking on the task of saving the world in their teens and early twenties. It’s appropriate that they were labeled the ‘Greatest Generation.’

“We were all kids, basically,” he said. “And didn’t know what the hell we were really doing, you know, flying that plane.”

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