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Local WWII Vets Take Flight In B-17 Bomber

The "Aluminum Overcast," has made a stop at Washington County Airport. (Credit: KDKA)

The “Aluminum Overcast,” has made a stop at Washington County Airport. (Credit: KDKA)

CRAWLEY Dave Crawley
Dave Crawley joined KDKA in April of 1988 where he reports on the...
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WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — The B-17 pounded the battlefields and factories of Nazi Germany in the latter part of World War II.

One of those bombers, dubbed the “Aluminum Overcast,” has made a stop at Washington County Airport.

Paid public tours and flights will take place Wednesday and Thursday. But first, two veterans of World War II were treated to a free media flight.

Oscar Toth of Elizabeth Township was a ball turret gunner, the last crew member remaining from a crew that was hit by flak on its 33rd mission. He was struck in the face.

“You don’t have to worry about losing blood,” he recalls, “because it freezes at 40,000 feet.”

That changed, of course, when the bomber descended. His plane limped back to its base in England where he slowly recovered.

Bob Rhine of Gibsonia piloted 35 missions in a B-17. He, too, remembers the bright flashes of flak fired in those nights over Germany.

“The stuff that came from the ground, you didn’t have much control over it,” he says. “So it was just another one of those interesting experiences you probably don’t want to do again.”

But they did take one more flight at Washington County Airport. The “Aluminum Overcast” rolled off the production line in 1945 and never did see action in World War II.

For the two veterans, who saw more action than they wanted, this flight was a happy one. As he exited the plane, Bob Rhine praised the flight and the smooth landing, saying, “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Oscar Toth added that the best part was: “Nobody shooting at us.”

The public is invited to tour the plane for a small admission price, while half hour flights will command larger donations.

To learn more about the B-17 flight, visit www.b17.org or call 1-800-359-6217.

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