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Veterans Day: Centenarian WWII Vets Soar Over The San Francisco Bay In Restored C-47 Aircraft

SANTA ROSA (KPIX) -- As the Bay Area honors the men and women who fought for our nation, this Veterans Day, two very special World War II veterans were honored with a ride of a lifetime over the San Francisco Bay in a very special plane.

One-hundred-year-old Del Tiedeman and 105-year-old Al Maggini flew for the Army Air Corp in World War II. On this holiday, the pair will fly again in a magnificently restored C-47, now a DC3, that used to secretly fly weapons and ammunition through the Himalayan Mountains into China. Del flew C-47s in Europe. He remembers one mission in particular.

C-47 aircraft

"Come over to London, load up with recruits, take them to the Battle of the Bulge and then return to London with a full load of wounded."

Tiedeman says he still hears the sounds of the wounded on those return trips, ordering his crew chief to help.

"One of the wounded back there, he screams and screams and I said, 'you gotta help him somehow.' I said 'You help him, give him more pills to put him asleep.' He said, 'If I give him any more pills, he'll die,'" he recalls.

Maggini was a B-17 Navigator. He was 27 and a senior officer at the time and says during combat, he was too busy to be scared, except one mission that didn't go as planned.

"We had to make a forced landing in Belgium. The only scare I had was that landing in that small airport that the Germans had bombed the devil out of the airfield as they were leaving it two days before!"

Now their service is honored with a flight across the Bay Area. With a professional pilot sitting next to him in the cockpit, Tiedeman flew the beautiful plane over the Golden Gate Bridge. He says the flight was beautiful and he is grateful, at 100-years-old, to feel the controls of the aircraft once again.

Maggini enjoyed his trip too. Once back on ground, he carefully exited down the stairway. He was honored to sign the roster of vets who have flown on the DC-3 / C-47 known as November 8336 Charlie.

Joe Anderson and his wife Mary co-own the plane. They are the founders of Benovia Winery in Napa Valley. Anderson says he is honored to host these two vets and delighted Tiedeman had the controls for a little while.

"He just had the time of his life, and so did we. I mean we can't recreate this stuff… if you're given a lot, you gotta give a lot," says Anderson.

Two WWII Vets, an historic plane and a generous owner made for a very special Veterans Day in Sonoma County.

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