WWII bomber pilot experiences B-17 flight for the first time since 1945

HOUSTON – The Lone Star Flight Museum and the Commemorative Air Force collaborated to put on a special experience for a WWII veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

This comes after 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, and likely the last milestone anniversary for most of those that served in uniform.

The ‘Fight to the Finish’ exhibit explores the air war in 1945 and the road to victory. The exhibit features wartime images, a historical timeline, rare wartime artifacts and personal accounts.

One personal account documented is that of WWII veteran, Edward Clarac. He’s a 98-year-old Galveston Island native who attended Rice University on the GI Bill after the war and graduated in 1950.

Clarac flew a total of 34 combat and mercy missions and was on the runway, about to take off for another combat mission in the B-17 when they were waved off because the war was declared officially over.

On Father’s Day weekend, one WWII veteran, Lt. Ed Clarac, was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the age of 98. Clarac was able to fly on a B-17 Texas Raiders, the same type of aircraft he flew in 1945. Clarac, though, has had a lot of experience with the aircraft.

During Clarac’s 18th bombing mission over Munich on February 25, 1945, 1st Lt. Edward Clarac’s B-17 Flying Fortress was terribly damaged by flak. A fragment of a German 88mm shell nicked Clarac’s neck and tore through his throat mic, putting a hole in his scarf and tearing through his B-10 jacket.

Once the wounded pilot’s airplane touched down, the crewmen pointed out that Ed had been hit. Ed was awarded the purple heart and the distinguished Flying Cross for his flying skill and bravery, all on display at the museum.

On Friday, for the first time since June of 1945, Clarac was able to take a flight, this time as a passenger, to see and experience the B-17 again.

“It’s very exciting...It gives me goosebumps. It’s so emotional,” Clarac told KPRC 2.

After a quick safety briefing, Clarac boarded the plane, which took off near Ellington Field.

“I think what it impressed me about [the B-17] the most was the punishment that it would take the amount of damage that would get you home. It was a super airplane,” Clarac said with a smile.

Clarac moved through the plane, visiting each part to remember the service and sacrifice of his fellow men and women in the service.

“It brought back a lot of memories. Some good some bad, but it was unbelievable and I’m so grateful,” he said.

Clarac returned after a successful flight, welcomed by a crowd of cheering family and observers. It was a moment his family said they would never forget.

His family said they will never forget the courage and leadership of their loved ones. His acts of courage saved lives and earned him a Purple Heart.

”You don’t expect it. You think you don’t deserve it, but it’s very meaningful to me now,” Clarac said.

About the Authors:

Catherine Sorto is a native Houstonian, a true crime junkie and loves flamin' chips.