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Posted by on Oct 10, 2019 in France, Germany, History, International, Military, Movies, War | 0 comments

Of Flying Fortresses, Tragedy and Memories of a Departed Friend (UPDATED w. Trailer)

A B-17 during a bombing mission over western Europe. (Courtesy photo
Bennie J. Davis III)

The venerable B-17 bomber, the “Flying Fortress,” dropped more bombs than any other aircraft in the U.S. military during World War II.

It served in almost every theater during that War and was instrumental to the Allied victory.

Gen. Carl Spaatz, the American air commander in Europe, went even further. “Without the B-17 we may have lost the war,” he said.

During the peak of the war in 1944, more than 4,500 of these magnificent aircraft flew worldwide.

As of a week ago, there were only 10 (airworthy) B-17s still flying as vintage aircraft.

After the crash of a civilian-registered B-17G on Wednesday outside Bradley International Airport, Conn., there are only nine.

Tragically, the fiery crash of the restored B-17 reportedly claimed the lives of at least seven passengers and crew members, while six people were taken to the hospital, three of them critically injured.

Our heartfelt condolences go to the families of those killed and our thoughts and prayers to those injured.

But the author’s thoughts and appreciation also go back to all the brave airmen who flew the B-17s, who survived and died during those daring World War II missions.

One of them is a now-departed friend, John Tschirhart, a World War II B-17 bombardier whose escape from Nazi-occupied France to the U.S. at the beginning of World War II, whose contributions to the liberation of Europe and whose romantic adventures that one “would only expect to see in a compelling, haunting movie about romance, amour, passion and heartbreak; about war, suffering, intrigue, spies and heroism…” are all recounted in “A Veteran’s Story Made for Hollywood.

John Tschirhart,by his B-17 In England ( bottom row, left.)

While some have given it their all to immortalize Tschirhart’s remarkable life on “digital celluloid,” the movie The French American, has not yet been released.

However, parts of a beautiful trailer for The French American were filmed in Colorado aboard one of those few remaining B-17s, the famous “Aluminum Overcast.”

The trailer was produced by FilmIt Productions founder and executive producer Darla Rae (below).

Producer Darla Rae (center), actors Julien Oblette (left) and Greg Kyle (right) on location with “Aluminum Overcast” B-17 in background. (Courtesy FilmIt Productions)

Watch the trailer here:

My good friend did not get to see the finished movie. He passed away on October 25, 2016, at the age of 95.

However, during a visit a few of months before his death, I showed John a report describing the filming in Colorado of some poignant scenes of The French American aboard the “Aluminum Overcast.”

Tschirhart devoured the report and for the first time in many weeks I saw a twinkle in his eyes. With a big smile on his lips and with a strong baritone voice reminiscent of yesteryear, Tschirhart said: “I’ll be darned. I may still see my movie. When the day comes, I’ll be there for the showing even if I have to crawl out of here.”

John, my friend, you don’t need to see the movie. You have lived it.