WWII Veterans Tell Their Personal Stories


[Editor’s Notes–The following press release was sent to us from our friends at Fantasy of Flight. This aviation-themed attraction is located just 20 minutes down Interstate 4 from Walt Disney World. It’s a wonderful place that deserves more attention. We’re careful to not allow our blog to become a megaphone for just anyone. We are sharing this press release with you because it’s a fascinating and worthwhile event!]


WWII Veterans to Share Their Personal Recollections of D-Day,the Largest Military Invasion in World History, during Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies Symposium Series

May 13-14

Stories Portrayed in Band of Brothers and Countless Other WWII Movies to be Told Firsthand by the Men Who Were There

POLK CITY, Fla. (April 25, 2011)  – On May 13 and 14, the general public will have a rare and historic opportunity to hear firsthand from some of the few living World War II veterans who participated in the largest military invasion in world history — The Invasion of Normandy, better known as D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Just one installment of Fantasy of Flight’s six-part Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, “D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy,” will shine the spotlight on the men who fought for their lives on that historic day when thousands of Allied Forces stormed the beach in Normandy, France in navy ships, planes and gliders, via parachutes and in amphibious vehicles to set in motion a military operation so massive, once it began, there was no turning back.

One of the only attractions in the country to bring together legendary World War II heroes to share their firsthand accounts, Fantasy of Flight is proud to present this newly expanded symposium series which invites WWII aviation heroes and their families to offer a glimpse of what it was like to fly in the heyday of aviation. The series also includes heroes from WWII who served on the ground protecting and supporting the men and women in flight.  Each symposium features several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions, followed by meet-and-greet/autograph signing sessions.

Throughout the weekend, WWII heroes Richard Ortega, Clifford Kantz and Howard Huebner, will share personal stories and recollections of the D-Day invasion and the grueling weeks that followed. Their stories promise to sound hauntingly familiar: Richard Ortega served with Easy Company, which was portrayed in the 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers and 1992 book by Stephen Ambrose. Howard Huebner, a paratrooper, fought with Easy Company after members of his company missed their drop zone by several miles and became separated dangerously close to German barracks. His story is portrayed in the film D-Day Down to Earth – Return of the 507th.

“This is an incredible opportunity to hear firsthand about one of the most historically significant battles in world history from the men who were actually there, fighting for their lives,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. “We are expecting a full house at Fantasy of Flight May 13-14 to honor these most respected and decorated WWII veterans.”

CMS Richard A. Ortega is a 30-year veteran of the United States military, with four years in the Army and 26 years in the Air Force. Trained as an infantryman and paratrooper, Ortega landed at Omaha Beach with the first assault wave, Easy Company, 2nd battalion of the 116th infantry regiment of the 29th infantry division. He spent 56 days on the front line, suffering 12 minor wounds before he was seriously wounded and evacuated to Southern England. He spent nine months in the hospital there before being transferred in May 1945 to the Army Air Corps to become a bombardier instructor in a B-29/50.

In July 1950, he served as the lead bombardier on the 1st B-29 mission flown over North Korea. He flew more than 10,000 hours in various roles in 11 types of aircraft, including the C-119, B-17, B-29, KC-97 and KC-135. In his later career, he participated in the development and deployment of the LGM-30 and LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM missiles. Ortega’s combat decorations include: two Silver Star medals, four Bronze Star medals with “V” (valor for combat), seven Purple Hearts, and many more. He retired from the United States Air Force on June 30, 1970.

Ortega feels strongly about sharing his message with the public during Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies symposium, and in particular, with today’s youth. “…We must instill upon the hearts and minds of the American public and our youth the values of citizenship, personal responsibilities, a sense of accomplishment, and enable them to become honorable members in our community  for competent and professional service to our nation. In this regard, we must relate to them the story of the sacrifices experienced by the American Military Forces during the Invasion of France who risked their lives to liberate France and the rest of Europe… We must continue to devote our time, talents and treasures to motivate the American public and our youth to seriously support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Major Clifford Kantz retired in 1963 after 20 years in the Air Force. He flew 16 combat missions during World War II, the first of which was on D-Day, when he piloted a C-47 to drop paratroopers over Normandy. He flew one of 27 planes in the 100th TCS or Troop Carrying Squadron, which flew with three other squadrons the morning of D-Day for a total of 90 planes flying in formation. In an article he submitted to his hometown newspaper, The Daily News in Lebanon, Penn., Kantz recalled being blinded by searchlights as the planes neared the beach, and watching as the paratroopers descended from the planes. “Even at this speed, I could see their eyes and they were terrified for a few brief moments as much as I was.” His first combat mission lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, but Kantz said, “Strangely it seemed much longer and much shorter… Many of my friends never returned that day.” The significance of the event wasn’t lost on the young pilot, who on D-Day was only 20 years old. “I shall never forget the small part that I played in the greatest military operation of any war in history.”

Special Staff Sargeant Howard Huebner, a U.S. Army Paratrooper was just 21 when he jumped out of a plane and into the history books on D-Day. His company, C-company of the 507th, was the last of the paratroopers to jump, and by then, the landscape of their planned drop zone looked drastically different, causing them to become disoriented and jump miles off target. Separated from his company, he fought with the 506th and 501st, securing the French town of Pouppeville and later fighting in one of WWII’s bloodiest battles at La Fiere Causeway, the site depicted in the movie “D-Day Down to Earth – Return of the 507th.”

Recalled Huebner, “We had a little cover for a few feet and then nothing but sheer luck and the good Lord with us, but we made it across. It was running and firing. You see your buddies lying there and you can’t help them, but we were trained to kill or be killed and that’s what took us across the causeway; guts and determination.”  The casualties suffered in taking the bridge were extremely high.  “It cost 500 lives to take a half mile of road,” he recounted. “A very high price to pay.”  C-company fought for 33 straight days in Normandy with no reinforcements, rations or supplies. Only 75 of 230 men in Huebner’s company survived. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1946 as a Special Staff Sergeant.

The “Legends & Legacies Symposium Series” features six topics scheduled for 2011, with remaining symposiums to include “D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy,” May 13-14; “The Pacific War: Power and Pursuit,” June 10-11; and “The Great Escape: Heroes Underground,” Oct. 14-15.  All symposiums are included with daily general admission and are free for all Annual Passholders. Call 863-984-3500 or go to http://www.fantasyofflight.com/ for more information.

Fantasy of Flight general admission is $28.95 plus tax for adults, $14.95 plus tax for youth (age 6-15) and five and under are free with full paying adult.  Group rates are available.

In celebration of National Military Appreciation Month, Fantasy of Flight is pleased to offer complimentary admission to all active-duty, retired and reserve members of the U.S. armed forces throughout the month of May. Guests must present a current military ID to qualify for the free general admission ticket. The offer is not valid with any other offers or discounts.

For more information, visit http://www.fantasyofflight.com.

Fantasy of Flight is Central Florida’s premier aviation-themed attraction showcasing vintage aircraft from the world’s largest private collection; themed immersion experiences; interactive exhibits; a tram tour of aircraft maintenance areas; Restoration and Backlot tours; Fun with Flight center for families and the country’s only Aerial Demonstration of the Day (weather permitting) featuring a vintage plane.  General admission also includes The Tuskegee Airmen – They Dared to Fly exhibit; the multimedia tribute to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) – A Passionate Pursuit, a walking audio tour and many special events throughout the year. 

Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.   General admission is $28.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors ages 55 and over and $14.95 for children, ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax.  Annual passes are available for $69.95 for adults, $39.95 for children ages 6–15, plus 7 percent sales tax, and are good for one year from the date of purchase.  Biplane rides, through Waldo Wright’s Flying Service, and hot air balloon rides, are available for an extra charge.  For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit http://www.fantasyofflight.com/.

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