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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The memories and nostalgia of America's Greatest Generation landed in South Mississippi Thursday. A crowd gathered to see two fully restored World War II planes on display at the airport in Gulfport. Several former fighter pilots talked about seeing the planes after all these years.
While Larry Cunningham watched the Corsair and Mustang maneuver through the skies, the former pilot said his mind was transported back to mid 1940s when he flew a similar plane into the heat of battle.
"Tremendous memories," said Cunningham. "I was young and single and a Navy pilot, a Navy fighter pilot, when I met this baby."
For World War II heroes like Jerry O'Keefe of Biloxi, the planes were a chance to show their children and grandchildren the wings that carried America to victory.
"It was great to see this plane again," said O'Keefe. "It brings back a lot of good memories and a lot of bad memories of those that didn't make it, you know. There were quite a few."
The Southern Heritage Air Foundation out of Vicksburg prides itself on giving the public opportunities to learn more about historic planes.
"It's a whole different experience that you can't get by looking at them in a museum even, hanging from the ceiling on a wire or something," said Dan Fordice with the Southern Heritage Air Foundation. "You've got to see them. You've got to hear them. You've to smell them and that's a totally different experience and we're able to do that."
Mike Schiffer is also with the Foundation.
"I think it's really important not to forget what these people did for us and why we have the freedom to fly and freedom of press today," Schiffer said.
Even at 87, Cunningham couldn't resist the temptation to climb in the cockpit and again feel that rush he experienced more than 60 years ago.
"It's a thrill. It's a thrill," said Cunningham.
The stopover in Gulfport was a joint effort between the Southern Heritage Air Foundation and the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
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