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Vintage WWII aircraft live to tell their tales (photos)

The National Wings of Freedom Tour stops in Northern California, where the world's last remaining B-24 takes a victory lap with veterans of WWII and other historic warplanes.

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James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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National Wings of Freedom Tour

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Three planes with a long history of service in the United States military made a stop yesterday here at Moffett Field as part of the National Wings of Freedom tour, a traveling aviation museum honoring World War II veterans and providing a living history experience to attendees.

Along with the restored vintage planes, including a P-51 Mustang, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, which are some of the last of their kind, veterans were on hand to tell their tales from cockpits and behind the guns that filled the skies during WWII.

The National Wings of Freedom Tour will be at Moffett Feld in Mountain View through May 28, with tours of the planes open to the public.
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National Wings of Freedom Tour

The P-51 Mustang, seen here, was an American long-range, single-seat World War II fighter aircraft. A tactical-reconnaissance aircraft, the P-51 was an agile ground-attack fighter-bomber that helped escort bombers over Germany in 1944.
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Nose section of P-51

The painted nose section of the P-51 Mustang, named Betty Jane.
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Shiny P-51

A lucky few will get to take rides on the vintage planes during the week-long stop of the National Wings of Freedom tour. The Collings Foundation, which puts on the tour, asks for donations of between $325-$425 per person, depending on plane and seat location. Flight training in the P-51, shown here, is also available at most stops on the tour, with pricing beginning at $2,200 for a half hour.

(We have a few photos from a ride on the B-24 later in this gallery.)

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P-51s colorful tail

This restored P-51 from 1944 sports a colorful striped tail.
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Restored P-51 Mustang

A restored P-51 Mustang taxis on the tarmac after landing yesterday in Mountain View, Calif.
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Customs agents watch planes land

Two U.S. customs agents, who were at Moffett Field for the arrival of Google's 767 aircraft from the U.K., watch as the P-51 taxis after landing.
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B-24

The last remaining B-24 in operation in the world landed at Moffett as part of the National Wings of Freedom tour yesterday.

Built in 1944, the B-24 was the shining star of WWII and was the United States' most-produced American military aircraft, with more than 18,000 of the planes built.
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WWII veteran Tom Boyd

WWII veteran Tom Boyd stands at the side belly gun during a flight in the restored B-24 Friday in Mountain View, Calif.

On December 20, 1944, his 19th birthday, Boyd's B-24 was badly damaged, and he and his crew were forced to bail out 22,000 feet over what was then Yugoslavia. It was just his second mission in the war, and, Boyd says, he and his crew walked for 21 days, sleeping during the day and moving quietly across German enemy lines at night.
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Tom Boyd

WWII veteran Tom Boyd, seen here against the restored B-24 bearing the names of men who flew aboard, still wears the same jacket he wore when shot down over Yugoslavia on December 20, 1944.
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Closeup of B-24

This closeup view of the nose of the B-24 shows artwork depicting its name, "Witchcraft," and telling the stories of its many missions during World War II.
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The front guns on the B-24

The front guns on the B-24.
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Tail guns on B-24

The tail guns on the B-24, where WWII veteran Tom Boyd, who is traveling with the Wings of Freedom tour, was stationed during his 26 missions.
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Cockpit of the B-24

Looking out through the cockpit windows of the vintage B-24 aircraft, Hangar One at NASA Ames Research Center is visible in the background.
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Rear of the B-24

A rear view of the B-24, a heavy bomber integral in WWI.
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Machine gun and view of tail

A vintage B-24 flies over Silicon Valley Friday during the National Wings of Freedom tour's stop at Moffett Field.
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Overlooking Silicon Valley

The machine gun points out over Silicon Valley during a flight Friday from Moffett Field.
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Highway 101

Looking down on Highway 101 during a flight Friday on board a vintage B-24 aircraft over Silicon Valley.
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B-17's four engines

The four-engine B-17 Flying Fortress, which was used heavily in WWII as a bomber, taxis after landing Friday at Moffett Field.
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B-17

The nose of a visiting B-17 with NASA Ames' Hangar One in the background.
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View out the front nose guns of a vintage B-17

The view as seen out of the front nose guns of a restored vintage B-17 aircraft from WWII.
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Enormous tires on B-17

Standing next to the massive tires of the B-17, the crew inspects the plane after its landing.
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B-17 tail gunner

The B-17's tail gunner targeted enemy planes through this small window in the tail of the Flying Fortress.
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Tail guns on the B-17

Tail guns on the B-17 at Moffett Field.
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Belly gun of B-17

The belly gun of the B-17 Flying Fortress.
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Front view of B-17

Restored artwork on the front of the B-17 Flying Fortress shows the plane's logo; its name, the "909;" and the number of bombs it dropped during WWII.
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Inside a B-17

A view inside the B-17's main cargo hold.
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Engine

A closeup view of one of the B-17's four engines.
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Control Tower at NASA Ames

A view of the control tower at NASA Ames Moffett Feld in Mountain View, Calif., were the National Wings of Freedom Tour stopped Friday.
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Control tower at NASA Ames

The vintage planes of the National Wings of Freedom Tour lined up in front of the control tower on the tarmac at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif. The planes will be open for public tours through May 28. Click here for details.

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