The beginning of July marks the end of the first half of 2019. As we move into the second half of the year, we look back on a busy summer season for the Voices of Freedom and progress made to the museum as we continue to work towards building a permanent facility in Prince William County.
The summer event season kicked off for the Voices of Freedom in Virginia Beach at the annual Warbirds Over the Beach held May 17-19. This is the 3rd year the VOF has brought the mobile recording studio to the event and the first time without rain. Interviews were conducted and the mission of the museum and this years open house were promoted.
Three weeks after Virginia Beach, the VOF was in Reading, PA for the Mid-Atlantic Air Museums World War II Weekend. This is a must attend event every year as thousands turn out to see vintage warbirds in flight, WWII reenactors from both the Allied and Axis Powers and the chance to meet Word War II veterans. When it was all said and done, the VOF conducted 15 interviews with veterans and civilians from WWII to the present day War on Terror. Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was our interview with 98 year old Pearl Harbor survivor William Bonelli. William is in great health and his memory of both the events of December 7th, 1941 and the years that followed which found him flying B-17’s out of Italy was remarkable.
Finally, the VOF participated in the Dale City Independence Day Parade to close out the first half of the year (First half plus 4). Always a good time with a great turnout, this year’s parade can be described in one word; hot!
There are many other exciting projects being undertaken by the museum. Of note, the Super Sherman has received her new power plant and is nearing completion in time for this years open house.
Work continues to progress at the museums 70 acre site in Dale City. Extremely wet conditions over the last year hampered the scheduled work resulting in an 8 month delay. Dryer weather has dominated the first half of 2019 enabling work to return to a relatively normal pace.
As is with any project of this size, fundraising is a major challenge, however, progress is being made. Our vision to honor those who have served, both veterans and civilians, educate the public by telling stories of personal sacrifice of Americans striving to preserve freedom, and to inspire future generations, is unwavering.
As we move into the second half of 2019, we look forward too many upcoming events. Not the least of which is our annual Tank Farm Open House to be held September 7 – 8 in Nokesville. After having bad weather last year which forced us to cancel the second day, we are striving to make this year our best ever.
For more information on the open house, click here.
For a complete schedule of our summer events, check out our Calendar of Events.
If you wold like to make a donation to help support our mission, you may do so by visiting our Donation Page.
The Voices of Freedom participated in the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Air Museums 29th Annual World War II Weekend in Reading, PA June 7-9. On Day 3 of the event, staff had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing 98 year old William Bonelli. Mr. Bonelli shared his story of piloting a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying 30 missions out of Foggia, Italy. During his career in the Army Air Corps and eventually the Air Force, William would attain the rank of Lt. Colonel. As interesting as his account was of missions flown in a B-17, the most compelling part was his recollections of the events of December 7th, 1944.
William Bonelli enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1940 and became a mechanic on the very same type of aircraft he would eventually pilot, the B-17. He found himself stationed at Hickam Air Field and on the morning of December 7th, 1944, he had a front row seat to the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor that would mark the beginning of the United States’ involvement in World War II.
William recalls seeing Japanese Zero’s fly overhead and wondering whose aircraft those where. It didn’t take long to realize that they were the enemy and that America was under attack. Running through strafing fire, William made his way to the armory to get a riffle and ammunition. He says that everybody thought they would soon be fighting the Japanese in the streets.
In addition to William Bonelli, staff had the pleasure of interviewing 14 other Americans who served their country during wartime from World War II to the War on Terror. It was the projects 5th year participating in the event which draws thousands of patrons throughout the 3 day weekend who are treated to warbird demonstrations along with military reenactors depicting troops from both the Allied and Axis powers.
Mr. Bonelli’s interview was captured and preserved with the museum and will be available for viewing online in the near future via our website, www.nmaw.org. We thank Lt. Col. Bonelli for his service and for taking the time to sit down with us to share his story.
The Voices of Freedom have participated in several events in 2018 and 2019. Events include Army Heritage Days in Carlisle, PA, Warbirds Over the Beach in VA Beach, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s WWII Weekend, the Dale City Independence Day Family Fun Day and the WWI & WWII Weekend at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, VA. Other events are on the schedule which includes our annual open house. See our Calendar of Events to see where we are going next.
Note: Those who participate in interviews will receive a DVD copy of the interview at no cost. Click here for details.