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Seeing as we are just a few days from Christmas, I thought this was a fitting story to share (even though the original is a couple of years old) since it took place around the same date in 1943. The story is that of a B-17 crew that was trying to make its way back to England after being heavily damaged during a bombing mission over mainland Europe. The crew was injured and the plane was flying lower and slower than usual, making them a giant target for German anti-aircraft gunners and fighter pilots. The German fighter pilot who rose to intercept them instead, incredibly spared them.

As Stigler’s fighter rose to meet the bomber, he decided to attack it from behind. He climbed behind the sputtering bomber, squinted into his gun sight and placed his hand on the trigger. He was about to fire when he hesitated. Stigler was baffled. No one in the bomber fired at him.

He looked closer at the tail gunner. He was still, his white fleece collar soaked with blood. Stigler craned his neck to examine the rest of the bomber. Its skin had been peeled away by shells, its guns knocked out. He could see men huddled inside the plane tending the wounds of other crewmen.

Then he nudged his plane alongside the bomber’s wings and locked eyes with the pilot whose eyes were wide with shock and horror.

Stigler pressed his hand over the rosary he kept in his flight jacket. He eased his index finger off the trigger. He couldn’t shoot. It would be murder.

You can read the full story on CNN or buy the book, A Higher Call, from Amazon (Referral link).

It’s a great story and a reminder of the grace and mercy that we can show each other everyday, even in the hardest of circumstances.

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The NY Times piece on what is happening to the Nazi sites in the historic city of Nuremberg is a look into the conundrum of up-keeping history while not honoring it.

In this city, the rallying point for Hitler, is the largest piece of real estate bequeathed by the Nazis, and a burden only increasing with time.

First comes the sheer physical size: a parade ground bigger than 12 football fields. A semicircular Congress Hall that dwarfs any structure at Lincoln Center. Great Street, more than one-and-a-half miles long, with no structures on either side — a modern Appian Way where the storm troopers strutted between the old Nuremberg of Albrecht Dürer and the rallies idolizing the Führer.

Then there are its troubled history and the far stickier question of what to do with it. “These are not simple memorials,” said Mathias Pfeil, chief curator of historic sites in Bavaria, “because they symbolize a time we can only wish had never happened.”

I have visited Nuremberg quite a few times and the Nazi sites always strike me as a strange intersection of history, hatred, and remembrance. Last time I visited I was with my dad and grandfather and there happened to be a heavy metal festival taking place on the site, with Metallica being the headliner. It was strange to hear metal being played as you read about the horrors of the Holocaust. During my second visit to the city, I even wrote in the caption for this photo about the strange dichotomy at the Nazi rally grounds.

Hitler stood here multiple times to give speeches during Nazi rallies. On this particular day it’s being used for a children’s marathon. The German people are torn on how to use these landmarks, they cannot be forgotten, yet they should not be glorified.

Zeppelinfeld Stadium
So where is the line between teaching younger generations about the atrocities committed in the name of the Third Reich and glorifying it? The story touches on the fact that most Nurembergers under the age of 25 have no historical context with which to view the rally grounds. They have always been there during their lifetime and associated with nothing that resembled war or struggle.

If you do visit Nuremberg, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center at the Nazi Rally Grounds) is a fascinating and sobering look at how the Nazi party took hold in Nuremberg, Munich, and finally Berlin. The center also tells the story of the Holocaust, the eventual loss by Germany, and the Nuremberg trials. It is on the site of the rally grounds and you can walk around them after visiting the exhibit.

I think it is pretty obvious that I am airplane nerd, an “avgeek” if you will. My love of planes and flying has been present since I was a little kid. Only in the last 10 to 15 years has my love of commercial aviation come to life, most of my love when I was younger was focused on military aircraft, especially those from the World War II era. Recently, when I visited the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow, Poland, that love of military aircraft was reignited.

Yak-23
A number of my friends and I were in town and we thought we would plan a tour of the Polish Aviation Museum so I arranged a van to drive us to the location due to it be a little hard to reach via public transit. I was also able to arrange an English speaking guide for a small fee. He ended up being a fantastic guide and he seemed to love the enthusiasm we all had for aviation and thought it was awesome we came to their museum.

The museum is on the site of an old airfield and they have hold an airshow every year by reopening closed taxiways and runways just for the occasion. The indoor exhibits are fascinating with tons of general information about different conflicts as well as Poland’s aviation history. There is even an entire display of aircraft engines, including one of the largest ever built. But, the real gem is the outdoor aircraft display. At first it looks like there are only a few aircraft, but you turn a corner and you see that there are tons of Russian, American, French, and Swedish aircraft scattered all over the property. There is even a “MiG Alley”, a long walkway containing every MiG aircraft produced, including most variants.

If you have a love of aviation and are in Poland or even a country nearby, make a detour to the Polish Aviation Museum. It really is an aviation geek paradise. Enough words, I will let the pictures do the talking. I have a ton of photos to upload and will update this post as I get them uploaded.

MiG-15

MiG Alley

MiG Alley

 

Soviet Missile Systems

MiG-21

Su-17

One of Lufthansa’s side projects is restoring vintage airframes and showing them off at airshows and museums. One of the airframes is a Junkers Ju-52 that saw service in Germany and Norway before being sold to Ecuador. An American bought the aircraft after that and in 1984 Lufthansa bought her back, restored her and now flies her on sightseeing trips. A while back I wrote about my desire to ride on this plane and during the summer I did just that.

Ju-52

Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung offers sightseeing flights and an option for point to point flights. The point to point flights take you from one airport in Germany to another, giving you a chance to explore some of the smaller airfields in the country. I decided to buy a ticket and a seat on one of the point to point offerings. Choosing the flight ended up being the challenge. Some of the airfields are merely grass strips with no nearby German rail stations, leaving passengers relying on taxis or family/friends to pick them up. The other issue is that a lot of the flying is done on weekdays. I needed to be in Germany on a Friday and back in New York City by Monday afternoon, again, limiting my choices on which flights I could take.

I found a flight from Köln to Egelsach, a small airfield south of Frankfurt, on a Sunday and booked it. I decided to fly Newark to Stuttgart since there was decent upgrade space available then take a train to Munich to visit friends, then take another train to drop my stuff at the Frankfurt airport and continue on to Köln on Sunday.

On arrival to Köln I did a little planespotting. They have a great visitor deck with three tiers of viewing space. Visitors get a great view of two of the runways, the passenger terminal area and tarmac and a perfect view of the cargo area. There were a number of families visiting and a ton of spotters (around 30-40).

The Ju-52 was actually doing a few sightseeing flights over Köln and it taxied out while I was on the viewing terrace. Everyone was in awe and the noise of camera shutters filled the air.

Boarding the Ju-52

Eventually I walked over to the meeting place for the flight, the general aviation terminal, and collected my boarding pass. Soon all of the passengers were gathered and led through a quick security check before heading for the aircraft in vans. The pilots, flight engineer, and flight attendant were waiting for us and the passengers made their way around the plane for a quick set of pictures in the beautiful weather. The crew was trying to gather everyone and I was unable to take any good shots in Köln (more on this later).

The pilots gave an introduction, in German, of the plane and their experience, they are all Lufthansa pilots who do this for fun. Our crew today consisted of a 747 pilot and an A330 pilot. I did not catch what aircraft the flight engineer operated. My German is so-so and I have trouble following some conversations and when we boarded they started giving some very detailed descriptions of the safety procedures and I wasn’t able to follow all of it. I asked the flight attendant if she could give some of it in English. She apologized profusely and explained they don’t get a lot of non-German passengers on these flights. My hat is off to her for taking a few extra minutes to point out the finer details of what should be done in an emergency in English.

Ju-52 Briefing

We taxied out and were off. The pilot took us on a bit of a scenic tour of the Rhine and overflew a small airfield on our way to Egelsbach, then he doubled back and gave a low pass to a large number of glider pilots and bystanders (all of whom seemed to have their cameras out). We continued on to Egelsbach and on the way the flight engineer left the cockpit and we were told we could visit the flight deck. I made my way forward and pilots handed me a headset and said they understood I spoke English. I asked a few questions and they pointed out the window that the weather was starting to deteriorate and that I should make my way back to my seat.

The entire flight experience was, put simply, incredible. The roar of the radial engines was drowned out a little bit by the modern insulation in the plane, but the noise was still fantastic. As we flew through light turbulence you could feel the plane react as the pilots compensated. Making wide turns you could feel the pilots working the pedals to make sure the turn was coordinated. It was classic stick and rudder flying and I think I was smiling the entire time.

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The ceiling kept dropping and dropping. My understanding is that they can fly the aircraft purely on instruments but like to stay out of the clouds for the passenger experience (the entire flight we never really climbed higher than 1,500 feet). Eventually we flew by Mainz and Wiesbaden and made a wide sweeping turn to Egelsbach before making a pretty cool landing.

Junkers Ju-52 Landing at Egelsbach from Stephan Segraves on Vimeo.

The weather was terrible when we landed and I got some raindrops on the lens while trying to grab some photos of the Ju-52. None of the shots really came out the way I wanted and I am still kicking myself for not grabbing more photos while in Köln. If you have a love of aviation and aviation history I highly recommend you find a way to take a ride on this plane. From the cabin to the sound of the engines to the enthusiasm of the crew, the whole experience was fantastic. You can learn more about the rides and the aircraft itself by visiting the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung website.

I have shared some pictures below and will be uploading more as I have time. If you’d like, you can see the entire set by visiting it here, on Flickr. I should note, if you take this trip, don’t bring a backpack. There is very little room onboard, especially near your feet. You are much better served just bringing a camera.

Egelsbach Airport
Egelsbach Airport

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Ju-52 Interior

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Ju-52 Cockpit

Junkers Ju-52
Ju-52 Parked At Egelsbach

Before I took the trip to Berlin a few weeks ago, one of my readers suggested I try to get a flight on a Junkers Ju-52. To be honest, I did not even know such flights existed. I started poking around the website that I had been sent and found a very large schedule for this year (German).

Junkers Ju-52

The Ju-52 has a storied history, being one of the early commercial aircraft for the new airline Luft Hansa, now known as Lufthansa. Being able to enjoy a ride on such an amazingly well restored piece of history is on my bucket list, if you can call my list of travel wishes a “bucket list”.

My mission to fly on the Ju-52 started in earnest immediately after being informed of the service and realizing that it would not be possible during the Berlin trip. I have now started looking at multiple dates and options for hitching a ride on the trimotor. The best prices to get to Europe are in May, but the Ju-52 schedule that month is not very good. I have started exploring options in June and July but due to the summer demand, the transatlantic prices make it difficult to justify the trip.

I will continue to watch the airline prices and if for some reason the prices drop, tickets will be purchased in a flash. The Ju-52 schedule is unique in that it doesn’t just offer sightseeing flights but also point to point flights as they move the aircraft around Germany. I would love to get in a couple of destinations. While pricey, it would be completely worth it to fly on such a beautiful piece of history.

photo by: bagalute

A military man can scarcely pride himself on having ‘smitten a sleeping enemy’; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack.

– Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Those words, spoken after the attack 68 years ago today, marked the beginning of the end of World War II. Yamamoto knew that even though he had partially disabled the naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, the resolve of the American people would strengthen their willingness to fight. Rather than relying on his advisor’s quick assessment from a strategic point of view, Yamomoto remembered his time at Harvard University to understand what was to come.

Pearl Harbor War Widows Go Into Military Work

Hollem, Howard R.,, photographer. Pearl Harbor widows have gone into war work to carry on the fight with a personal vengeance, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Virginia Young (right) whose husband was one of the first casualties of World War II, is a supervisor in the Assembly and Repairs Department of the Naval Air Base. Her job is to find convenient and comfortable living quarters for women workers from out of the state, like Ethel Mann, who operates an electric drill.

The ultimate sacrifice of 2,345 military personnel and 57 civilians would not be in vain.

Today is a day that our service men and women from World War II should be remembered, thanked, and admired. If you have children, teach them about today and the great sacrifice of a generation to insure that the United States prevailed and lived on.