JANESVILLE - The rain moved out, heavy clouds parted, and Diamond Lil was ready to fly.
Thank goodness, as the beautiful B-24 classic aircraft had some very special passengers set to ride Thursday afternoon.
Five World War II veterans were welcomed aboard for a free flight, ushering in Warbird Weekend at the Southern Wisconsin Region Airport in Janesville.
Warbird Weekend showcases historic aircraft including B-29 "Fifi," P-51 Mustang "Red Nose," AT-6 WASP Texan, C-47 "That's All Doc" and many others.
"Being able to give these veterans a free flight is probably the best thing that I can do," said event organizer Pete Buffington. "It's just so special and is an opportunity to thank them for their service."
Aboard Thursday's flight over the Stateline Area were Burly Brellenthin, a radar operator on the B-29; Donald O'Reilly, MP at two B-24 bases; Ken Boyd, a C-47 pilot; Glen Boyd, air service member who flew on C-47s around the world; and Bruce Muench, a radioman in the Navy.
Muench, of Roscoe, has written five books. One in particular, "Spam Cans, Rice Balls and Pearls," is about his experience while serving in the Pacific.
"I joined the Navy in 1944 when I got out of high school," he said. "At that time you knew that you were going to go into the service - I was 17."
After training, Muench spent time in the Marshall Gilbert Islands. He was in the area during war time trials and saw the aftermath of bloodshed.
"It was a little traumatic for me even though I never got shot at...it was definitely a maturing experience and changed my mind about war," he said.
Thursday's special honor flight was a nice opportunity to remember what it was like to serve so many years ago, Muench said.
"I used to be next to B-24s in the islands," he said. "I was also able to fly in the old plane I trained in about six months ago, and that was real neat after 75 years."
Members of the public will get their own chance to see, touch and even ride in the historic aircraft during Warbird Weekend, running from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. through Sunday.
In addition to regularly scheduled activities, Saturday will feature a neat 100 Beechcraft Bonanza fly-over at approximately 12:20 p.m. as the planes head to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
President Eisenhower's twin-engine Air Force One will be on display starting at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Its arrival will be followed by the popular 1940s-themed "Swing and Wings" hangar dance from 7 - 10 p.m.
"We're excited about this weekend and love to meet people who want to see our aircraft," said Toni Rabroker, volunteer with the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). "Their support is what keeps these planes flying."
Tickets to Warbird Weekend are $10 per adult, per day, or $20 for a family, per day. Tickets to "Swing and Wings" are $25. See https://jvl19.splashthat.com to learn more or 'Like' the event on Facebook.