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Vet Takes Flight Down Memory Lane

It has been 66 years since Robert Zimmer flew in his last B-24, which he exited via parachute during World War II. Wednesday the Greenwich World War II vet looked into his past at the Wings of Freedom tour at Westchester County Airport.

As a navigator, Zimmer flew in the nose compartment of the aircraft, right behind the bombardier. On his 13th mission, Friday, Oct. 13, 1944, Zimmer's plane was shot down over enemy territory.

"I jumped out at 20,000 feet and threw my dog tags away because I was afraid Adolf Hitler would find me and kill me because of my religion." Zimmer was captured by the Germans and spent time in various prison camps before being transported to Berlin. In 1945, Gen. George S. Patton and his troops liberated Zimmer after he spent 13 months as a prisoner of war.

Wednesday, Zimmer and his friends rode in a B-24 Liberator named "Witchcraft."

The Wings of Freedom hits the New York-area every year on its tour of the U.S. It is put on by the Collings Foundation, a company that restores antique aircraft and vehicles. The foundation supports living history and allows Americans to learn more about their past through participation. This year, they had both a B-17 named "Nine-O-Nine" and the B-24.

"Shows like this are a snapshot into the past," said Andrew Paspalas. "My father flew B-17s and my uncle is a D-Day veteran. WWII veterans are a dying breed."

"[Nine-O-Nine] was used as a strategic bomber in Europe," said Mac McCauley, a flight volunteer for the Collings Foundation. "This aircraft is a piece of history, best of its design and built like a brick house." McCauley has been flying since 1965 and has logged 3,800 hours on the "Nine-O-Nine." "You can't help but get a nostalgic feel," he said. "I've flown with veterans who were in something similar and it's such an honor to bring the plane around and talk to them."

The tour will be in Bridgeport at Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport from Sept. 7-10.

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