Posted by , SHS Managing Partner.

I was recently elected to the board of directors of Doc’s Friends, a relatively new not-for-profit. You may know Doc as one of the Seven Dwarves. In this case, that famous Doc is, indeed, the namesake of a vintage B-29 Superfortress manufactured right here in Wichita during WWII. After service, Doc was sent to lie in repose amid the Mojave Desert for 40 years. In 1987 the once-magnificent plane was finally rescued by Tony Mazzolini and a group of historians with a crazy-ambitious dream: Get Doc back in the air.

Doc Desert[1]

Doc’s Friends was formed to make that dream a reality. If successful, Doc will be one of only two flying B-29s in the world. It boggles my mind when I contemplate the endless obstacles Doc’s Friends have worked to overcome: the economy, the scarcity of craftsmen who know a nearly lost art, the difficulty of finding or recreating 70-year-old parts. Getting this old B-29 back in the air is a labor of love for a band of passionate, tenacious, inventive volunteers.

But why is it important to spend all this time and effort restoring a former bombing target back to flying condition? Does anyone really care? Should they?

Well, I’m not much for name-dropping, but in this case, I’d like to make an exception. We all remember this George Santayana quote (if not the author):

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That seems to focus too much on the negative. I contend that remembering our past is also a way to ensure that future generations can repeat the good stuff. You know, like patriotism, sacrifice and service. And there’s certainly a lot worth emulating as we look back at what mid-20th-century Americans accomplished.

So here’s another Santayana quote, and I think this one more aptly fits the rationale for Doc’s restoration:

“We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that once it was all that was humanly possible.”

I’m sure there were days when winning the war on so many fronts must not have seemed humanly possible. Yet “the greatest generation” did win it – through selfless determination and unfathomable sacrifice.

In that context, getting Doc to once again slip the surly bonds seems entirely worthwhile and attainable. Engines are being acquired and hung. Fuel cells tested and installed. And dedicated volunteers are buckling down to make it all happen.


But we’ll need more help, and lots of it. I hope you’ll consider pitching in on this modern-day war effort in whatever manner, and at whatever level, you can muster. That’s what they did in the 1940s, and that’s what we should do now.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to honor those who sacrificed, educate current and future generations, and connect more Americans with their heritage so that we can better understand where we’ve been – and where we’re heading.

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