They have been called the “Greatest Generation.” They are the 16 million Americans who fought in World War II and built the country we enjoy today. That legacy is quickly disappearing. Fewer than 700,000 World War II veterans are still alive; within 20 years, there will be no veterans left to tell their stories - or how the war changed the future of the world.
The B-17 Alliance Foundation was formed in 2006 to keep that legacy alive. We are restoring the B-17 Lacey Lady to airworthy condition and building a museum to bring the history of World War II to life. It’s an ambitious goal. Few B-17s remain in existence and only a handful of those are airworthy.
Lt. Col. Stanton Rickey (Ret.) takes a familiar seat next to his son in the cockpit of the B-17 Aluminum Overcast during a fly-in to the Alliance hangar at McNary Field. A veteran of three wars, Rickey spent 10 months in a POW camp after the B-17 he was piloting was shot down over Germany. Nearly 9000 Allied airmen were liberated from the camp in April 1945. As the end of the war neared, prisoners were allowed one bowl of cabbage soup and two slices of black bread a day. Rickey weighed 105 pounds when he was evacuated.
Prior to its relocation to Salem’s McNary Field, the Lacey Lady was at the mercy of the elements as it sat perched above McLoughlin Boulevard in Milwaukie. After six decades of exposure, the aircraft was caked in layers of corrosion and plagued by birds that had adopted it as a nest.
Today, thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, the plane is protected in a climate-controlled hangar where restoration efforts continue.
Because of generous donations, the Lacey Lady’s nose section glistens like new in front of another restored B-17: the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Aluminum Overcast. Restoring the nose section alone cost $365,000, plus expenses to move the aircraft to Salem. Once restoration is complete, the Lacey Lady will be one of a small handful of airworthy B-17s in the world.