CRESTVIEW — Europe's last operational B-17 "Flying Fortress" will roar over the beaches of Noirmoutier, Crestview's sister city, as the island community pays homage to a similar bomber's crew members who crash-landed there in July 1943.
A contingent from Crestview will be among the beach crowd.
The B-17's flyover and a pair of World War II escorts, a C-47 Dakota and a P-51 Mustang, are part of a weeklong "Wings of Victory" celebration being organized by the Noirmoutier Vintage Vehicles Association and the island's sister city committee.
Planned events include a Family Day at the Airbus factory in nearby Saint Nazaire, target of the American bombing run during that ill-fated B-17 flight. The aircraft to fly over the island will be on display during the Airbus event. Saint Nazaire is also home to a massive German World War II U-boat pen complex, a visit to which is also included.
La Guériniere village will recreate a war-era community complete with re-enactors portraying villagers, French Underground members and German occupation troops. A large-scale parade and exhibit of war-era vehicles will fill the square at the Noirmoutier castle. Visitors will feast on gala meals and hear a free concert with dancing by a local swing band.
Crestview Sister City committee organizers said their French counterparts assure Okaloosa County visitors have a memorable experience.
"You will have ample time to explore the magical island, shop in its many charming boutiques and markets, perhaps loll on the lovely beaches, and immerse yourself in the culture of your hosts — including all that world-class cuisine!" the committee's informational material states.
Participants will stay with French host families, "including marvelous, home-cooked meals ... plus all the advantages of exploring Noirmoutier through the eyes of a native," the materials state. "You’ll see and experience wondrous things never mentioned in the guidebooks or seen on package tours!"
Participants must arrange their air travel to and from France; once they arrive in Nantes, the closest major city, the Noirmoutier Sister City Committee takes over and expenses are minimal. Accommodations and transportation are included in membership dues, currently $2 for students or $30 for a family.
An optional overnight excursion to Normandy is available at additional cost, currently estimated to be $160. Noirmoutrin historians will escort their Crestview friends to the gothic island monastery of Mont Saint Michel, the "Utah" and "Omaha" D-Day landing beaches, the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, Pointe du Hoc, and the American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer.
Time permitting, an opportunity to view the famed Bayeux Tapestry, a nine-century old, 230-foot-long embroidery depicting the Norman conquest of England, will be included.
Want to go?
Anyone interested in the June 24-July 3 visit to Noirmoutier can attend an informational meeting 6-7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Crestview Public Library. The event is free, and the Crestview High School French Club will provide complimentary chocolate crêpes. Contact Pam or Joe Coffield, email@example.com or 682-8437, for information.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.