CAF’s P-51 Pays A Personal Tribute at Arsenal of Democracy
When the CAF members travel to airshows, fly-ins and celebrations they hear some of the greatest stories of “why” someone wants to visit or fly in a warbird. Sometimes it’s a bucket list item after a long career of flying airliners, a log book entry for future bragging rights, a childhood dream or someone who last sat in one of these historic aircraft in their youth while serving their country 70 years ago. CAF Col Orin “Butch” Summy volunteered at Culpeper Airport for Arsenal Of Democracy. He heard many stories throughout the week, but one stuck out and he wanted to share it. A woman came to the airport with some valuable cargo and the CAF's P-51 Gunfighter was tasked with an important mission to to pay a personal tribute to a World War II Veteran, a P-51 fighter pilot, for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover.
By Orin “Butch” Summy
Okay, so most or all of you know I spent the weekend in Virginia at the Arsenal Of Democracy flyover commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Germany. By being there I found many stories within the story happenings and I want to share one with you now.
In meeting up with my friends that fly the Gunfighter I was introduced to a very nice couple from Kansas that was1 there to witness the flyover. Marianne and her husband Richard were at Culpeper Airport also to meet up with Larry “Lumpy” Lumpkin and Jeff “Linedog” Linebaugh Gunfighter’s pilots. Marianne's father was a P-51 pilot in World War II. You can tell Marianne had a very close relationship with her father whom she lost back in 2007.
The story within the story is that Thomas Conway Leary (Marianne's father) was shot down (I think late '44) and was captured and imprisoned in a German Stalag prison camp. He was moved several times, sometimes in rail cars to different Stalag camps as the Americans advanced through Europe. At the end of the War, Patton’s Army finally liberated him. Marianne wanted to honor her Father by having him in some way participate in the historic event that the flyover represented.
As you can see in the attached pictures she brought her Dad’s uniform cap, his funeral flag, a book written about his squadron, a picture of him in his younger days and most important and touching was his German issued POW dog tag that Larry wore around his neck for the flyover. Larry flew Gunfighter with Mr. Leary's artifacts in the airplane. It was truly an honor to be witness to this and share Marianne's memory of her father.
Marianne said of her father, “If ever things were getting him down, which didn't happen often, he would take the POW dog tag out of his wallet and remember what captivity was like; and that his freedom was so precious and not to let things get him down.” Kind of a pull yourself up by the bootstraps and keep trying attitude. But that's why Mr. Leary's generation is called the greatest generation.
Enjoy the pictures, but always remember that Freedom isn't Free! Men like Mr. Leary suffered and sacrificed so much for a country they loved. Always be mindful and respectful of their sacrifice.