WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — While it’s possible for anyone to visit or pay for a ride on Wichita’s famed B-29 Doc, a gentleman from Hays actually maintained and flew in B-29’s in the 1950s.
Gerhart “Gary” Albrecht was an engine chief who also flew missions over Korea and later over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam. He even captured returned space capsules from the sea.
As a birthday gift from his daughters, Gary came to town to be reunited with the B-29.
“We knew we had his 90th birthday coming up. And you know, we’re so blessed to have him still in our lives and wanted to do something special. So, we decided to see if we can get him a ride on Doc,” said Gary’s daughter Vicki.
“I’m perfectly happy to do this. I haven’t flown in B-29 in 70 years,” said Gary.
Gary attended basic training for aircraft and engine training as well as 3350 engine school. By the age of 19, he was already working on B-29s and eventually became the crew chief of one.
“Kind of fitting in that he gets to come back to his very first plane,” said Vicki.
During World War II, Gary worked at the Walker Air Force Base.
“I was gonna go enlist in the Marines Corps, and he told me, ‘Let me tell you so you, in the Army and in the Marine Corps, you’re sleeping in a hole in the ground over there. In the Air Force, you sleep in a decent bed. If you’re going to go into service, then the Air Force will have a decent place to sleep,’ and you know he was right,” said Vicki.
Gary made the choice to move up from working on engines.
“It was a choice to become a flight engineer and to actually get into airplanes and fly into danger. I’m very proud of him for having done that,” Vicki continued.
“Doing my job is probably what I was most proud of. Maintaining airplanes can be a pretty demanding job,” said Albrecht.
Gary has received six Air Medals, and his team was credited with vectoring in the first MiG Kill over North Vietnam.
“There were definitely some that were pretty harrowing. Somewhere he was flying in the dark of night, landing on dirt roads and picking up troops and flight after flight, touch and go and grabbing troops and flying out,” said Vicki.
“It means I did my job when I was supposed to. Most of my Air Medals were because I survived basically in combat situations,” said Gary.
“Yeah, we’re extremely proud of him and his service and just the man that he is,” said Vicki.
“This country is the best country in the world, and I’m glad to be able to represent it,” said Gary.
“This is Senior Master Sergeant Gerhart Albrecht of the United States Air Force. He served this country with great honor and distinction and with a true heart of service for the United States,” said Vicki.