World War II Scholars Fly High in B-17 Bomber

Normandy Scholars in front of B-17

A few lucky UT students were given a whole new perspective this past Saturday as they flew over the Forty Acres in a restored World War II-era Boeing B-17 Bomber.

Michel Oxford, one of four Normandy Scholars chosen to ride in the plane, says the experience was eye-opening. “We attempt to paint a picture of what World War II was like, but today I felt as much a part of that picture as those involved.”

The Frank Denius Normandy Scholars Program, established in 1989, annually chooses about 20 students from different disciplines across campus, bringing them together for an in-depth study of World War II. Over the course of the program, scholars have the opportunity to attend lectures, meet veterans and Holocaust survivors, and travel to WWII sites in Europe.

The half-hour flight conducted by the Collings Foundation, an educational nonprofit that hosts nationwide “living history” events, gave the scholars a rare opportunity to experience the life of a World War II airman firsthand. The students were able to crawl from crew station to crew station, simulating the duties of a real-life bomber mission.

Matt Hammons, BA ’97, a former Normandy Scholar, sponsored the flight in one of only 12 operational B-17s in the United States. “They’ve all seen movies and read books about World War II,” Hammons says. “But now they know what it feels like to climb in that bomber—what it looks like, what it feels like, what it smells like. They know what the individuals involved really went through.”

Top, from left: Michael Oxford, Alexandra Bass, Jenny Tamlyn, program Associate Director Francoise de Backer, and Tyler Schulze.

Photo courtesy of Matt Hammons.


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