It may have taken him a few minutes to climb on board, but Stu Allen took a ride on a time machine Monday (Aug. 27) at Leesburg Executive Airport.
As a young Marine, Lynwood Stuart Allen served as crew chief on a B-25 Mitchell during World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and had not been on one since.
On Monday – with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren along – Allen was the guest of honor of the Commemorative Air Force on “Maid in the Shade,” a B-25J, shortly after the historic warbird touched down in Leesburg.
“The B-25s we got in the Marines were actually hand-me-downs from the Army Air Corps,” Allen said while looking over “Maid in the Shade” before boarding. “We were testing them down in the Florida Keys. They had equipped the bombardier with a ground-tracking device, so when he would turn it on to sight in his bomb release, it would slow the plane way down. After they lost a couple planes, they decided that wasn’t going to work.”
“Maid in the Shade” arrived Monday morning for a week-long stay as part of CAF’s Flying Legends of Victory Tour. The B-25 will be joined later in the week by “Doris Mae,” a Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bomber that was built for aircraft carrier service in the South Pacific.
Tours of the planes will be available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 2 to 6 p.m. Friday through Monday, Sept. 3. The public can purchase a ride on “Maid in the Shade” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday through Monday. The TBF Avenger will be available beginning Wednesday. Space on the flights is limited so anyone who is interested is urged to book a flight in advance.
For more information or to book a flight, visit azcaf.org/location/leesburg-va-tour-stop/.
Allen lives in New Jersey, but his stepson who lives in Lorton read on Facebook about the Flying Legends of Victory Tour coming to Leesburg. As a veteran who had been connected with the B-25s when they flew, Allen was asked to sign the inside of “Maid in the Shade’s” bombay door.
As he walked around “Maid in the Shade,” Allen’s smile widened as he shared tales from his tour in the Marine Corps.
“We were stationed in the Philippines, right near where (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur was when he came back there,” Allen said. “We all had signs on our tents: “Thanks to God (and a few Marines) I have returned.”
According to Peter Hague, Wing Captain for the CAF’s Capitol Wing in Culpeper, Allen’s flight fulfills one of the main components of the group’s mission.
“Our mission is Honor, Inspire, Educate,” Hague said. “We are a 100 percent volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to keeping alive the memory of these airplanes and the crews who flew on them or worked on them. It is an honor and privilege to fly veterans like Stu, and it is such a joy to watch the years melt off their faces as they relive memories with these airplanes.”
Hague said the Capital Wing is going through a rebuilding process, and he said they would eagerly welcome anyone who wanted to join in their mission.
“Whether or not you know anything about planes, we promise we will put you to work,” Hague said. “We need people from all walks of life, whether you are a pilot or a mechanic, or even if you have skills in finance or web design. We can use anybody, and we promise you will get your hands dirty (working on airplanes).
CAF charges for rides on its warbirds – $325 or $650 on the B-25, depending on your seat, and $995 on the smaller TBF Avenger – but that money is used for maintenance and repairs of the airplanes.
“Every penny we raise goes back into keeping these planes in the air,” Hague said. “We want to keep these planes flying, to make sure people remember them and the crews who served on them. That’s what we are all about.”