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Monday, June 30, 2014

WWII vet takes ride on B-24 from Jabara Airport

By Hurst Laviana
The Wichita Eagle

At age 92, Bob Spatz had just one unfulfilled wish.

He wanted to ride in a B-29 bomber like the ones he worked on as a mechanic during World War II.

Although he hasn’t quite reach that goal yet, Spatz came close Saturday when he took a 30-minute ride above Wichita in a WWII-era B-24, which his relatives said was the closest available aircraft that provides rides to members of the public.

Spatz, a resident of the Sterling House Emporia assisted-living center, was granted his wish by the Jeremy Bloom Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, which grants lifelong wishes to deserving seniors.

Spatz’s relatives said he dedicated the flight to his younger brother, Harold Spatz, who was executed by the Japanese at age 19 during World War II. The Spatz Hall dormitory at McConnell Air Force Base is named after Harold Spatz, and Bob Spatz got to visit the dormitory Saturday before heading to Jabara Airport for the ride on the B-24.

Spatz spoke little before or after the flight, but his wife, Caroline, said he’d been eagerly anticipating the trip to Wichita.

“He’s been thinking about this for a long time,” she said. “I just think this is a great honor. It’s a wish come true.”

Spatz was pushed to the airplane in a wheelchair, and it took some effort to squeeze him onto the cramped, 10-seat craft. He was accompanied on the trip by Garold Hodges, a stepson-in-law.

“He seemed to enjoy it,” Hodges said after the ride. “He knew what was going on and enjoyed the ride very much.”

With temperatures on the ground hovering around 100, Hodges said the heat wasn’t a problem once the plane was in the air.

“It was a nice, breezy ride,” he said. “I got the wish of a lifetime too.”

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