97-year-old WWII Naval Intelligence Officer takes first flight in a B-25J Mitchell

B-25 Mitchell - Show MeWorld War II era B-25J Mitchell lands on the runways of Bowman Field (KLOU) to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. World War II veterans are being treated to honor flights during WWII Operation Gratitude.

The B-25J Mitchell, affectionately nicknamed “Show Me”, is best known for its role during the raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. This raid, led by Col. Jimmy Doolittle, is often cited for boosting America’s morale after the attack on Pearl Harbor just months before.

“Show Me” flew from the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, which is located in St. Charles County Smartt Airport (KSET), to Louisville’s own Bowman Field Airport (KLOU) specifically for the celebration. 

WWII era B-25J Mitchell, Bowman Field, June 2019

 

Twenty veterans from all branches of the military were carried five at a time in “Show Me” across the rolling hills of the Bluegrass State.

 One of those passengers, Norma Lewis, admits she spent most of the flight with her hands clenched. Not in fear, however, but exhilaration.

“The engine is like a thousand violins in my ears,” she said before pausing. “The feeling of being in the air is just… wow.” Norma smiled, recounting the flight in “Show Me”.

At 97 years-young, as she will be sure to remind you, Norma has lived an altruistic life.

In 1943, at the age of 21, she joined the Navy. She was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina as part of a mission of tracking German submarines.

After three and a half years as a Naval Intelligence Officer, Norma retired from the Navy.

She came to Louisville in the 1960s as a sign language interpreter, something she picked up around the age of 10 after having been raised by her deaf aunt and uncle in Connecticut.

In 1977, “Mass of the Air”, a televised weekly mass on local news station WHAS, began to air. Norma volunteered for the program as an interpreter and has since been with the station for 40 years. 

WWII Operation of Gratitude is presented by Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter during the week of June 3-7 to recognize the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

Jeff Thoke, chairman of the board of Honor Flight Bluegrass, said: “I am thankful to be able to put on such a truly special event for these veterans.”

From left: Norma Lewis, Jeff Thoke, and Ernie Micka pose
in front of the B-25J Mitchell, Bowman Field, June 2019

 

Honor Flight Bluegrass was selected as a recipient of a $75,000 grant from the Kentucky Veterans Program Trust Fund, administered by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs to fully sponsor the honor flight.

For more information, visit www.honorflightbluegrass.org

B-25J Mitchell lands at Bowman Field to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, June 2019