Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor is now hosting an exhibit titled “Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front,” a special exhibition now available through Harbor History Museum’s Traveling eXhibition Service. Featuring a series of striking photographs reproduced from a secret stash of World War II images, ephemera, and a diary from 1945, the exhibit highlights the combat, captains, crew, and camp life of the 445thbomb squadron of the 12thArmy Air Corps stationed mainly on Corsica and in Italy.
“This amazing collection was found when my sister and I were cleaning out the hayloft of our horse barn in Gig Harbor,” says Stephanie Lile, exhibit curator. “Dad never talked much about the war and never seemed to want to, so finding the box of dusty old photos and a diary was a huge surprise.” Lile and her four siblings felt the collection was too special not to share. In fact, she has spent the last 10 years researching and cataloging the collection, an adventure that took her to Italy and to Arizona to fly in an historic B-25.
Lile used the collection as inspiration for a young adult novel, “The Tail Gunner,” then she and her family decided to expand access to the collection by creating a traveling exhibition. ,
The exhibit features portraits of the “boys” who flew B-25 bombers in the Mediterranean theater. Some of them are known, like Wellnitz and Keith B. Lile – the tail gunner whose collection these images came from – and many are not.
One of the curator’s hopes in presenting this exhibit is that as the show travels, people will recognize some of the men depicted.
“Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front” is on view until June 2, with a curator talk being presented on Thursday, April 11, 6 p.m. at the museum, located at4121 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor, WA 98332. For more information about “Bomber Boys,” visit www.harborhistorymuseum.org.