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101-Year-Old WWII B-29 Pilot Honored with Superfortress Flight

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Vaucher, a Boeing B–29 pilot during World War II, was again on the flight deck of a Superfortress September 26. The flight over northern Virginia honored the 101-year-old’s distinguished military service.

Vaucher flew 117 combat missions during 46 months of service, and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, among other decorations. Vaucher was a part of the “show of force” formation of 525 B–29s that flew over the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. Decades later, he was chosen to serve as honorary air boss for the Arsenal of Democracy 75th World War II Victory Commemoration Flyover that was to have included 70 aircraft passing in waves over the nation's capital to honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II.

That was the plan, but the flyover had to be scrubbed because of bad weather on September 25, and again on September 26.

The massive front windscreen provided Vaucher a superb view of rolling terrain near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains as the 99-foot-long aircraft smoothly rotated and entered a left crosswind. Two large television monitors behind the bomb bay broadcast an outside view of the flight, a graphical representation of airspace, and the current weather conditions, while the bomber quickly ascended to pattern altitude. The situational awareness was a vast improvement over the instrumentation Vaucher relied on during his years of active service.

Less than favorable weather conditions kept the honor flight short and in the local area.

After the successful flight, which had attracted a crowd to the airfield despite secrecy surrounding the anniversary mission, Vaucher regaled B–29 Doc pilot Steve Zimmerman with a few stories he encountered as a World War II bomber pilot.

Vaucher later joined the flight crew on the ramp for a postflight photo where he flashed a smile and an enthusiastic thumbs up. Earlier the honorary air boss repeated the advice he dispatched to dozens of warbird pilots who diligently trained and prepared themselves and their machines to overfly the Potomac River, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Mall. He admonished them to “get in line and stay in line,” just as he did at the tip of the spear in Japan more than 75 years ago.

Visit YouTube to watch videos about the Superfortress flight and the Arsenal of Democracy practice flights.