Hometown Patriot - Howard Blackburn

DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - Earlier this week, Howard Blackburn, of Leesville, finally got his wish. He flew shotgun in a World War II era P51C Mustang that took off from Chennault and circled around Beauregard Regional Airport in DeRidder. The plane was an historic model used by the Red Tail Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen, and similar to one worked on by Blackburn, a crew chief during the war.

"All I knew was we were trying to win the war," said 94-year-old Blackburn. "We stayed with it. The Red Tails were working out of Italy and we were working out of England. We did a lot of escort work for bombers."

Blackburn was awarded the Bronze Star after a plane he maintained flew 150 combat hours without having mechanical failure.

"It was the work on the P38 that got him the Bronze Star," said Sharon Hyde-Beltz, a volunteer at the airport. "His workmanship is what got that airplane back safe and sound and the pilot back on the ground all in one piece."

Blackburn says he got along well with pilots he worked with.

"I had two pilots during the war," said Blackburn. "There was no rank between us. In other words, it was just man to man. They would come in and tell you that the plane was doing such and such and you fixed it. They'd thank you."

After the war, Blackburn worked with the railroad, retiring in 1980.

You can see the P-51C Mustang on Saturday, Oct. 5 at the 7th Annual Wings and Wheels Fly-in at Beauregard Regional Airport. That fly-in will include the Commemorative Air Force's Red Tail Squadron Exhibit.

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