Because I am fascinated by anything having to do with World War II, I was delighted when a friend sent me a video about P-51 Mustang fighter planes, affectionately known as the “Grey Eagles.” The story of this enduring aircraft is told through the eyes of pilot Jim Brooks, a WWII ace who flew the Mustang named “February” during the war, providing protection for B-17 bombers as they penetrated deep into German territory.
Although there were nearly 16,000 Mustangs built only 200 remain worldwide. In September of 2007, nearly half of these remaining P-51′s came together at an unprecedented event, “The Gathering of Mustangs and Legends“, held at Rickenbacker Field in Columbus, Ohio. Through this event, Brooks was reunited with his plane, and his family was finally able to get him to reminisce about his war experiences. The video, which is is extremely touching and at times even humorous, features Brooks’ two grandchildren, who accompanied their grandfather to the event for his first view of the restored plane and subsequently had an opportunity to fly in it.
I can relate. My father was a belly gunner in a B-17 bomber in WWII and he, too, hesitates to speak of those days. On the rare occasions when he does reminisce, I treasure every sliver of information he divulges. His memories are precious pearls that need to be remembered, honored, and preserved. Brooks’ grandchildren must agree with me, for they have taken the time not only to produce the video, but have also created a website dedicated to their grandfather and to the P-51 Mustang. The website contains some great photos, lots of history, and tells the complete story of Brooks’ reunion.
The brave men and women who served in WWII are all now in their eighties. Fewer and fewer remain. Fortunately, my Dad is in good health and I hope he stays that way for many years to come; I cannot imagine a world without him. And who knows; perhaps Jim Brooks was one of the fighter pilots who protected my Dad’s plane, bringing him back to us safely.