About a dozen men crowded into a corner office — the only heat inside a large hangar at Enid Woodring Regional Airport — trading war stories and history about the massive Douglas A-26 Invader — the Lady Liberty — a twin-engine, light bomber quietly but formidably taking up the bulk of the frosty building. No one mentioned the $10,000 check on the table.
The stories were flying fast, and may have continued for hours, as the veterans swapped stories of their service or that of family members before them and the history of aviation, bemoaning how children these days have little available to help them grasp the meaning of the sacrifice and patriotism during the world wars and following conflicts.
Ironically, it was the reason the men were gathered, and for that $10,000 check on the table before them. That check was funding to go directly toward the upkeep of the A-26 legacy and ensure the current generation and those to come had a physical reminder of those sacrifices and patriotism.
Members of the Naval Enlisted Reserve Association traveled to Enid and Woodring to present the check to the squadron responsible for the upkeep of the Lady Liberty, one of less than a dozen left in the world and the oldest A-26 still flying today, said R.J. Seabrook and Chris Somers, with the squadron.
“Things like the Lady Liberty … We want to maintain military history for our kids and our grandkids,” said NERA member Stan Dowling, “so that they will understand what our ancestors, our fathers and grandfathers went through, the type of work they did to make this country what it is today.”
Somers and Seabrook figure it takes well more than $60,000 a year just in normal maintenance and upkeep of the Lady Liberty and the squadron, so the donation from NERA was well appreciated.
Lady Liberty is a squadron of the Commemorative Air Force that maintains and operates the Douglas A-26 Invader of the same name, which basically is “just the name that the crews have assigned and the nose art on this aircraft,” Seabrook said.
The squadron maintains the plane and contracts with air shows across across the region.
“We get about two or three pilots who are checked out and fly it over the summer. We go to air shows. She’s down for the winter now,” Seabrook said, confirming the last flight of the season was a flyover at Enid’s veterans parade last month.
But just because the plane is resting in the hangar doesn’t mean her squadron is doing the same. It takes a lot of work and timing to keep the plane in good condition, Somers said. And a lot of money.
But the history and education the plane presents is worth it, he maintains.
Now dubbed Lady Liberty, the A-26B 41-39230 (N9682C) was the 130th A-26 produced at Long Beach, Calif., in August 1944 — production of the A-26 line started in 1941.
“N9682C is a WWII combat veteran, having served with the 9th Air Force in France in September 1944,” according to a history compiled by Somers. “9682C returned to the U.S. after the war and served with the U.S. Air Force until it was dropped from service in October 1957.”
After its military stint, the Lady Liberty served as a test aircraft and firebomber. The bomber was obtained by the Commemorative Air Force in the 1980s and was based in Nevada until transferred to Oklahoma in 1996.
“She was initially based at Wiley Post in Oklahoma City,” Somers said, before being transferred with the squadron to Woodring in June 2012, “where she’s been based since.”
“This gracious donation will be used to maintain and operate this vintage warbird and keep it in the skies over Enid, Oklahoma, for many years to come,” Somers said.
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