TRENTON — On June 6, 1944, the day most of Harold Beal’s classmates were graduating from Pemetic High School in Southwest Harbor, he was among the thousands of troops storming Omaha Beach in Normandy.
It was D-Day, the start of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France, and Beal was a gunner’s mate on an amphibious landing craft.
He was reminded of that time as he climbed into a World War II-era B-17 bomber at the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport for a short flight over Mount Desert Island on Monday.
“It’s a lot different than it was 70-odd years ago,” he said. “That was the last time I flew in one.
“It was good,” he said of Monday’s nostalgic flight.
Also enjoying the flight was World War II veteran Austin Carter, who lived in Bar Harbor for 47 years and now lives in Hermon. He was stationed at various bases stateside during the war after enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a navigational cadet.
Beal, who still lives in Southwest Harbor, is a former owner of Beal’s Lobster Pier, the business his father started in 1932. Carter is a former Jackson Laboratory employee.
Both men are 91.
The four-engine B-17 bombers were known as “Flying Fortresses” because, in addition to carrying bombs, they were armed with 13 .50-caliber machine guns and were very solidly built.
The B-17 that Beal and Carter flew in, named “Sentimental Journey,” was built near the end of the war. It was stationed in the Philippines, but never saw combat.
It is one of only 10 B-17s in the world that are still flying, according to the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum, whose volunteer crews maintain and operate it.
It is at the airport here this week and next as part of the organization’s Flying Legends of Victory Tour of the U.S. and Canada this summer and fall.
On-the-ground tours of the plane are offered for $10 per person or $20 for a family of up to four. Flights on the vintage plane cost $425 per seat in the “waist compartment” and $850 for each of the two bombardier/navigator seats in the nose.