A Father’s Day gift to remember

Published 7:12 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

On Tuesday morning, Richard Nordin stood on a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, runway as a B-17 bomber rolled toward him.

Nordin, the 79-year-old captain of the Spamtown Belle and a retired Navy veteran, boarded the classic World War II bomber for the flight of a lifetime, an opportunity provided to him by his four children for Father’s Day.

Along with seven other passengers, Nordin took to the skies for about 45 minutes. While in the air, he was able to explore the cramped inside of a plane used primarily during European bombing missions.

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As he poked around the cabin, taking in gun mounts and the bombardier’s chair, Nordin said he thought of those who flew similar B-17s more than 60 years ago.

“I thought of the guys that did this during the second World War,” he said. “I was just really impressed with what they went through.”

Nordin said the plane was pretty loud during take-off, but with earplugs securely in place, he said his flight wasn’t as bad. In addition to the earplugs, Nordin had a camera, and he used it liberally.

The Spamtown Belle captain also met several other veterans while in the sky. This was made easy by the military caps that most of the passengers wore, like Nordin’s Navy hat.

When the exploring, picture taking and storytelling was over, Nordin returned to the ground with an experience he’ll never forget.

“As soon as I got back, I sent an e-mail to all four (of my children),” he said, “telling them what a fantastic thing they did.”

One of those four children, Austin’s Lisa Baudler, said she and the others knew right away that the flight would be a perfect gift. That’s because Nordin has long been involved with and interested by the military. In addition to his time of service, from 1955 to 1958, Nordin’s father and uncle fought in World War I, while his brother fought in World War II. And over the years, Nordin has become a military history buff, reading every new book he could find.

“I don’t think he even realized something like this was available,” Baudler said. “He was just absolutely thrilled.”

Nordin said his children had him pegged. Asked, after being a father for many years, if the B-17 flight was the best Father’s Day present he has ever received, Nordin’s answer was quick and simple: “Yup, by far.”