Not so many years ago, I turned 60. 

Big deal. Most people will sooner or later.

But I wanted for my birthday was a family trip, a place I’d never been to. In this case, the Wings Over the Rockies Museum in Denver (a stone’s throw away from Buckley Air Force Base – in fact, it used to be part of it).

You’re greeted by a huge RB-52 on static display right outside:

And a myriad of aircraft inside to include a F-14 Tomcat and a B-1:

One thing I thought was cool was an F-4 Phantom with my wife’s name on the side.

The most interesting was an exhibit of life sized bronzes.  A group of WW II pilots being briefed on the morning mission.  And standing behind them were the ghosts of several fallen comrades.  The artist was one of 14 men who trained together, fought together, and at the end of WW II, there were only two left.  When the other one passed, he’d made a promise to do something to help them be remembered. 

Frederic Arnold flew 46 combat missions before he was shot down over Sicily and taken prisoner. He escaped and, after rejoining his unit, completed his 50-mission tour of duty. He then returned to the States, and became a test pilot and the author of the pilot’s manual for the P-47 Thunderbolt, the P-51 Mustang, and the P-80 Shooting Star, America’s first jet fighter. He also penned a memoir of his combat experiences: Doorknob Five Two is a real gripper.

I’ll be reviewing it sometime in the future.

Here’s a few shots:

This is one that was really haunting.  It’s two men, one was the wingman of the other.  The one with his head bowed was new, and he zigged when he should have zagged and crashed right into his buddy, costing them both their lives.  According to the artist, he is being consoled by the man he killed that “Things happen and go wrong and we shouldn’t blame ourselves”

The pilot touching the shoulder of another represents the recent loss of a good friend. You can’t stop just because a friend has passed. But the ghost of the friend is still trying to comfort is buddies.

One thing that the artist did point out is that there’s open spaces on the benches.  While the bronzes aren’t supposed to represent any particular persons, he made it out alive and so no effort was made to include one to represent himself.

Last but not least, a video of it all:

Fredric Arnold, the last of the group, passed away a few years ago.

He kept his promise.