On Wednesday June 27, the Lone Star Flight Museum was pleased to host special guests, Mr. Ed Clarac and his friend Mort Voller. During World War II, Ed was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot with the 351st Bomb Group flying out of Polebrook, England. He completed 33 missions over occupied-Europe and was just at the take-off threshold to go on his 34th mission when it was announced that Germany had surrendered, May 8, 1945. Now 95 years old, Galveston-born Ed took the opportunity to get re-united with the B-17 and took the Museum staff on a wonderful trip through his memories of what it was like to fly and fight in the skies of Europe some 73 years ago.
Especially harrowing was Ed’s 16th mission, where his B-17, named “Smart Ball” was hit by enemy fire and lost three of its four engines. Flying through the foothills of the Alps trying to get home, they were attacked by a German fighter that tore the aircraft up with cannon fire and shot at by enemy gunners on the hills who were shooting down on Ed’s aircraft. One piece of shrapnel cut the throat-microphone from around his neck and ripped through his flight jacket, which is how close he came to being seriously hurt or even killed. The crew succeeded in making an emergency landing at a forward fighter base southeast of Paris, but it would be months before the B-17 could be repaired to fly again.
Out on the ramp, walking around “Thunderbird,” Ed shared what it was like to fly the B-17 and even how the crew got in through the nose hatch, although he didn’t want to try and demonstrate. That was for 20 year old kids. Ed talked to a group of visitors who were touring with one of the museum’s docents and looked at aircraft like the PT-19 and T-6 that he learned to fly in before his visit was over. So, you never know who you will meet at the museum on any given day; if you’re lucky it just might be someone like Ed Clarac, who lived the history that we talk about with our airplanes and exhibits.
We hope you can join us this 4th of July for our day of Red, White & Bombers, to learn more about the B-17 Flying Fortress like the one Ed Clarac flew!