Vets take a ride through time on vintage bomber
BY KARIE ANGELL LUC For Sun-Times Media August 20, 2013 7:26PM
Hazel Krauklis of Libertyville served in the U.S. Army and went on a test flight in 1944 on a B-17 Bomber. Hazel was in the Women's Army Air Corps in 1943 and was a sheet metal mechanic. | Karie Angell Luc/for Sun-Times Media
Wings over Waukegan
The event will take place one day only on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Waukegan Regional Airport 3580 N. McAree Road.
Expect classic “war birds,” static aircraft displays and other military craft.
Gates open at 9:30 a.m. The air show starts at noon.
Tickets for adults are $10 at the gate and can be purchased at www.waukeganairshow.com. Children under 12 get in free. There’s free parking plus food and beverage booths.
Updated: October 20, 2013 2:28AM
For a broadcast legend who ad-libs on cue, Jack Coombe, 91, of Northbrook, was at a rare loss for words Aug. 19 when the B-17 Flying Fortress he was seated in was about to take off.
“Wow,” said the usually verbal author, Northbrook cable television personality and U.S. Navy World War II veteran who witnessed the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
Coombe, his seat belt secure inside the unpressurized cabin of the World War II-era bomber, was among a handful of local veterans who took to the skies shortly before 2 p.m. Monday at Waukegan Regional Airport.
The plane flew over a six-mile region into Lake Michigan and over Lake County.
Thanks to Wings Over Waukegan air show organizers, these veterans, some who had a wartime connection to the B-17, were grateful.
“This is my dream,” said Hazel Krauklis, of Libertyville.
“I just wanted to do it for so long, I’m a nut for it,” she said.
Her son Rex accompanied her. Krauklis and her husband Daniel have four other children, Jeff, Mark, Frona and Tammy.
She served in the Women’s Army Air Corps and went on a B-17 test flight in 1944. She was a sheet metal mechanic who began serving in 1943, stationed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Kansas.
“That’s Flying Fortress,” she said, of the B-17.
Richard Cook, a 55-year Arlington Heights resident, sat next to Coombe on the flight. Cook, 90, served as a 388th Bomb Group groundsman from January of 1943 to December of 1945.
It took four legs on a B-17 to get Cook home across the Atlantic from Knettishall, England a couple weeks before Christmas in 1945. Coming home for the holidays was the best present ever, he recalled.
His ride Monday was the first on the aircraft since 1945.
“It’s worth a million. if I had it, I’d give it,” Cook said.
Coombe, Krauklis and Cook walked around the cabin, viewed the gunnery stations and the bomb bays.
A glamorous pin-up girl smiled on nose of the bomber, like those painted on by the crews in wartime to name their planes. In navy blue spiky high heels and red strapless maillot, “Aluminum Overcast” is quite the blonde bombshell.
Coombe clearly recalls the events at Pearl Harbor.
“It was the first place they sent me,” said Coombe, who noted there are few Pearl Harbor veterans left.
He and his buddies were having coffee and, “Suddenly, boom! We heard a boom,” he said. “Then it was another boom and another boom. That was the beginning of my career in the Navy.”
To honor veterans, this year’s theme is the 40th Anniversary of the Vietnam Peace Accord.