174th Assault
Helicopter Company



By: Mel Lutgring
Dedicated to all those who crewed the
B-17 "Flying Fort" in ...War and Peace

It was love at first sight,
My heart pounding with delight.
I struggle to control my emotions
With all my physical might.

She sat invitingly in the misty rain,
Her reflections driving me nearly insane.
As I approached her it was surely a dream.
Today Iíd fly in this magnificent plane.

Standing under her massive wings,
My mind oblivious to almost everything,
I marveled at her graceful stance,
Eager to begin this new romance.

My finger tips caressed her cool smooth skin,
As the preflight rituals begin.
With a mighty pull and a healthy kick,
I board through the nose and settle in.

Her fuselage reeks of a fragrant perfume,
A mixture of fuel and oil fumes.
The instrument panel dances to life,
Radios crackle and gyros struggle to upright.

A starter wines, an engine barks,
Billowing smoke as it starts.
The quiet now broken with a deafening roar,
As the souls of the men aboard her soar.

One by one the engines echo their loud retort,
Spinning props giving life to the Flying Fort.
A sheepish grin spreads across my face,
My skin tingling all over the place.

The brakes creak and groan,
As she taxies from her chocks alone.
Those day of massed formations,
Of silver and olive drab, forever gone.

I peer outside through the plexiglas nose.
Suddenly aware of the crowd so close.
The B-17 is the star of show,
And Iím the envy of all below.

We pause at the end of a cement sea,
Man and machine pulsing with energy.
Vibrating intensely ready to spring,
The brakes are released and our flight begins.

Flesh and metal suddenly become one,
The ribbon of concrete now gone.
We climb twisting and weaving along,
Her four engines singing their harmonious song.

Sitting there in the past dreaming,
A flash brings echoes of men screaming.
A pair of Zeroís fly harmlessly by,
A sight years ago made grown men cry.

Then a beautiful thing slips into view,
A little friend know as the F4U.
Just like in the Hollywood movies,
The Corsair comes to our rescue.

Reluctantly I slip from the bombardiers seat,
And squirm through the crawl way, not an easy feat.
The pilots and crew chief greet me with a familiar grin,
I feel so good this surely must be a sin.

I ease myself carefully aft,
The bomb bay empty, but for a draft.
The radio compartment is just a shell,
Gone are the waist guns that gave the enemy hell!

I reflect on two of the gunnerís lonely plights,
They spend hours alone on those long flights.
The rest of the crew knowing they were around,
Only by their frequent chatter on the intercom.

Encased in a ball like a baby in the womb,
One had two 50ís with to share the room.
The other, just like sitting out on a limb,
His view is great, but grim.

I drop to my knees and crawl to his seat in the tail.
A place, many saw scenes that they could never tell.
But today itís all in fun,
As the Zeros attack out of the sun.

We make a break for the airfield below,
As smoke from an inboard engine billows,
I get a tighter grip on a handhold,
Itís easy to forget itís only an air show!

All too soon the main gear touches the ground,
And I crawl from the tail, sad to be down.
But with me I bring an unforgettable memory,
Of an experience I thought could never be.

Iíve flown in many a plane and helicopter,
But none as captivating as her.
The "51" may be a beautiful teaser,
But the "17" is a real crowd pleaser!

By: Mel Lutgring
174th Assault Helicopter Company
Chu Lai, Vietnam, 1971