Later, the campers enjoy cold beers and grilled steaks. Tim Murphy is wearing a flowered shirt. Bill Gaston is smiling. Jamie Stowell now knows something of her father’s experience “and the astonishing level of courage it took to do it.”
Craig Connor leaves with a connection to his own service in C-130s: “Could we follow in those guys’ footsteps? I don’t think so. But the crew camaraderie and the mission—all of that still exists today. I’ll be back on duty Tuesday.”
Mo Levich’s years of research have a first-hand dimension now. “For me, there’s no more imagining what those men did for us and what we owe them. We owe them....” His voice trails off and he shakes his head. “I can’t fill in the rest.”
As the class of 2010 checks out of Fantasy Camp, reality looms in the silent silhouette of a B-24 in the day’s fading twilight, and the spirit of those who flew it 65 years ago.
Stephen Joiner is a frequent Air & Space/Smithsonian contributor.