Part 2 of 2 on the historic bomber, “Memphis Belle,” that will land Sunday in Fresno for public tours.
Rudy Giannoni stepped cautiously into the belly of the B-17 named Memphis Belle at Fresno-Yosemite Airport. He eased his way past the 50-caliber waist guns he once manned on bombing missions over Germany during World War II. With memories flooding back, he gingerly stepped around the ball turret gun and sat down in the seat that would have been occupied by the radioman.
Giannoni had been invited to take the special Media Flight over Fresno. Pilots John Ferguson and Bob Hill and crewman John Eads made the 89-year old veteran as comfortable as possible. The engines began to sing and the propellers turned to a blur. The Memphis Belle began to taxi for takeoff. A smile came over Giannoni’s face. It had been 68 years since he last flew in the iconic four-engine bomber.
As a young man barely out of high school, Giannoni enlisted in Los Banos in February of 1943. After training as a gunner he went to England by way of a British ship on a two-week long convoy where U.S. destroyers, escorting the convoy, dropped depth charges on German U-boats.
In May of 1944, Giannoni was stationed with the famous 8th Air Force and the 447th Bomb Group at a RAF (Royal Air Force) Station at Rattlesden, near Suffolk. As an engineer and waist gunner on a B-17, he and his crew of 10 began flying missions immediately. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, they flew two missions in support of the Normandy landings...