The high-end military adventure entertainment business has grown from an anomaly to a cottage industry. Flying in a MiG to the upper atmosphere, taking to the skies for mock air combat, crushing through a building in a tank, and going to special operations and spy camps are just some of these exotic opportunities that affluent individuals can take part in. Another adventure like none other has been added to that list—experiencing a full recreation of a World War II bombing mission, including the actual bomb dropping part.
Here's 'Bomber Camp's' pitch for prospective customers, which includes being a crewman on a B-17 Flying Fortress or B-24 Liberator:
"Are you looking for a Call of Duty experience, but for real? Do you remember watching the movies Twelve O’clock High or Memphis Belle? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to fly your own mission in a legendary B-17 Flying Fortress or a B-24 Liberator? Young or old you can live your dream at Bomber Camp!
Bomber Camp is much more than a "fantasy camp". It is an immersive WWII living history experience allowing you to step back in time to train for a bombing mission and then to fly it, for real. You will experience sights, sounds, and smells that few others have known, and gain a greater appreciation for the men and women of the "greatest generation".
This year's Bomber Camp offers a more affordable one-day program. You will attend classes in the morning, have a GI lunch in the mess tent, fly your bombing mission in the afternoon, and relax in the officers’ club after mission debrief. This once in a lifetime opportunity can be yours. Enlist now!"
According to Bomber Camp's website, the idea behind the interactive experience was originated a decade ago by Taigh Ramey, the founder of Stockton Field Aviation Museum. Over the last decade, the concept evolved dramatically, with different World War II reenactors being added to deepen the experience. The Collings Foundation's WWII era B-17G, B-24J, B-25, and P-51, as well as a PV-2D and other assorted planes, have been integrated into the program.
'Enlistees' arrive at Stockton Field in the morning and receive a basic orientation and they then begin their gunnery and bombardier training classes in a mock WWII camp—period specific crew apparel provided. The gunnery classes include how to operate the aircraft's Browning 50 caliber machine guns and how to employ the bomber's turrets. Bombing instruction includes the fundamentals of hitting targets with once top-secret Norden and Sperry computing bombsites. But it's in the afternoon when the real exciting stuff begins.
"The afternoon includes mission flights and various ground activities. You will train and fly as a member of a 6-person bomber crew assigned during induction. A mission consists of flights of both the B17, B24 and other planes flying over the target area, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains as backdrop. As a crew you will take up positions in the bomber and rotate through them during flight. Before and after your mission you will participate in ground training activities, including firefighting, radio operation, first aid, and ball turret training.
Bombers and escort planes depart promptly at mission H-hour. Prior to flight you can observe ground operations up close as the field comes alive readying the planes for battle just like in WWII. During flight, when permission is given, crews can explore their aircraft, fire simulated-firing 50 cal. machine guns from different crew positions, ride in the ball turret (requires prior ground training), and help to release dummy bombs on the target using the Norden bombsight.
After the missions are complete and all planes have returned home safely there will be a mission debrief, reviewing the success -- or failure -- of each mission flight and its crew. Afterwards everyone will retire to the officer's club for some well-deserved R&R, with snacks, refreshments, music and lots of stories from the crews and cadre about their derring-do. The evening ends with a toast to the efforts of the greatest generation, and especially to those who sacrificed everything."
The add-ons list is almost laughably awesome—they include flying an 'escort mission' in a fighter like a P-51 Mustang. Flight instruction in most of the aircraft is also available at a substantial additional cost.
'Torpedo Camp' is an additional half day module that mirrors Bomber Camp but you learn how to shack a ship in the PV-2D Harpoon with torpedoes instead.
This all happens between San Francisco Bay and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so incredible scenery is included in the package along with a t-shirt and 'personalized dog tags.'
The coolest part of all of this is the simple fact that World War II bombers are actually dropping bombs—albeit inert ones—out of their bomb bays in the year 2018!
Prices run from $450 for the day but with no bomber flight and $2,200 for the day with the flight. The escort flight add-on in the P-51 costs $4,500 and an instruction flight in the B-25 will run $3,500. Torpedo camp is a $1,500 adventure in itself.
None of this may be cheap, but for the World War II air warfare super aficionado, there isn't anything similar that can provide such an immersive and interactive experience. And it's not like the money isn't going to a good cause. The funds keep these incredible antique aircraft, which also serve as traveling memorials, in the air. Considering that the vast majority of the people involved in these projects do it all for free, it's really a bargain.
As someone who has worked around the warbird community for many years, this is a really creative way to package all that it has to offer into something marketable and totally unique. What a great idea.
So if your dream has always been to drop bombs on target from the belly of a Flying Fortress or Liberator, here's the chance you probably never thought you had.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com