WWII vets share story on making P-47 aircrafts - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

WWII vets share story on making P-47 aircrafts

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During World War II, workers in Evansville built more than 6,000 P-47 Thunderbolt Airplanes and only a handful are still flying today.  

Two were supposed to be on display near the Evansville Airport Saturday morning, but they didn't end up making it. However, that didn't stop local veterans and others who helped with the war effort back at home from getting together and sharing their stories.

We all have stories to tell, but as the years go by, fewer and fewer can speak first hand about World War II. On Saturday, many did at a homecoming of sorts near the Evansville Airport.

O.J. Dick is a former Evansville firefighter that turns 90-years-old on Sunday. As a slightly younger man, he served overseas.

"I ended up in the 3rd Army, after the invasion of France, and we were reconned for Patton's 3rd Army," says O.J. Dick.

Before he ever put on an Army uniform though, O.J. played an important part in the war effort back home in Evansville.

"I worked on the first P-47," says O.J. Dick. "We worked the last few days and we worked 72 hours without going home so we could finish it up on its due date."

Lucy Koester Wahniedler helped build P-47 Thunderbolts as well, who is a real life Rosie the Riveter.

"When I turned 18, I came to Evansville and got a job at the Hoosier Cardinal," says Lucy. "I worked on the elevator of the P-47 and I drove rivets."

Navy Veteran William Hill says that he worked night shifts as a machine inspector.

Hill, Lucy, and O.J. are just a few of the many from Evansville who pitched in and went to work when their country needed them.

"They had over 70,000 people producing these items," says Richard Litov. "Everything from munitions to ships, to aircrafts, tools, you name it."

Seeing so many of those people in one place Saturday morning kept Richard busy. He's the  President of the Freedom Heritage Museum who helped organize the P-47 homecoming.

"It's just tremendous and unbelievable that there's such a mix of people right here in Evansville to hear all those interesting stories," says Richard.

Because of weather issues, the P-47 themselves couldn't make it, but for those who did, it was still a change to reminisce and remember. Which is exactly the goal of the Freedom Heritage Museum.

"We're losing all that history because they're really not teaching it in school," says O.J. Dick. "This is a place that the kids are going to learn about it if they can get out here."

There's no date on when the museum will open, but the president tells 14 News that they plan to have other special events in the future to build interest.

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