94-year-old World War II veteran re-visits aircraft he flew over 70 years ago

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- With only two airworthy B-29 Super fortresses left in the sky, it can sometimes be difficult to unite them with former crew members.

That wasn't the case Tuesday for 94-year-old World War II veteran, Gomer Lesch.

After over 70 years, he's still instinctively drawn to the same seat in the cabin, although he's noticed it's bit more challenging to get there.

"I'm glad I don't have to do that more than once," says Lesch, shaking off the climb he just made into the cabin.

Lesch was the navigator on a number combat missions over Japan, including what he claims is the longest and final mission of World War II.

"It's a very nostalgic time," says Lesch from the navigator station, "and this is a very familiar set of instruments."

Lesch says the memories come rushing back every time he gets back into this aircraft like he's done hundreds of times before.

"I can remember my co-pilot, Gene Wise, and my pilot, Sam Bush, my bombardier Ted Batallo, and how great a crew we were together," he would continue.

Lesch is the last remaining crew member. The B-29 that Lesch and his crew flew in was modified so that the only gun was on the tail of the airplane.

"The purpose of that was to get it some altitude," explains Lesch, "and at that stage of the war, they believed that the Japanese fighters could not make their pursuit curve on our plane as fast as we were going, and it turns out they were right, and I'm glad they were right."

Lesch will be going up in the B-29 on Wednesday. While he won't be in his navigator seat, he says he's excited nonetheless.

The B-29 is on display at the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport this week.



 
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