153rd Madison Composite Squadron interact with history while helping raise funds
Madison, Wis. – Members of the 153rd Madison Composite Squadron provided over 100 hours of volunteer labor at the Heavy Bombers Over Madison fundraiser event held in July at Madison’s Truax Field Air National Guard Base. World War II era aircraft descended on Madison and provided the public the opportunity to tour and ride the restored vintage aircraft.
Two of the 153rd Squadron members present at the event had a compelling curiosity about the World War II era bombers. Second Lieutenant LuAnn Vriezen worked the flight line, helping hold people back as planes arrived, refueled and took off again.
Her father, Second Lieutenant Wallace Wegner of the U.S. Army Air Corps, had been a navigator who flew on both B-17’s and B-24’s during WWII. She hoped to better understand her father’s war experience by touring the aircraft. “He never really spoke about his war experience”, she said. “He would answer questions if someone asked, but otherwise didn’t say much about it”.
Her son, Captain Michael Vriezen, came to Truax after volunteering at EAA AirVenture to see the planes with his mother. Both Vriezens had the opportunity to tour the B-24 Liberator, “Diamond Lil”.
Vriezen’s father flew a B-24 over the Alps on a mission for which he later received a Distinguished Flying Cross. The story has been told that the cockpit oxygen went out and that he ran to the back of the plane to retrieve more oxygen. The specifics had been a mystery to the family until now. The Commemorative Air Force B-24 crew at the site, explained that bottled oxygen was stored at the back of plane. If a bullet took out the regular cockpit oxygen, retrieving the bottled oxygen would allow the crew to continue to fly.
Many of those touring the Heavy Bombers event expressed a similar desire to see the plane in which a father, uncle or grandfather had served during WWII.
The Heavy Bombers event concluded Sunday afternoon, as the World War II aircraft made the final leg of their trip to EAA AirVenture. They left with less fanfare than they had arrived, but still inspired awe as the powerful Curtiss-Wright and Wright-Cyclone engines fired up and prepared to take off.