O.C. WWII Veteran, 95, Rides in B-17 for 1st Time Since Being Shot Down Over Germany

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A 95-year-old World War II veteran who was shot down over Germany got the chance to return to flight aboard a B-17 in Southern California Wednesday.

Lou Tirado emerges from a B-17 bomber in Santa Ana on May 4, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

Lou Tirado emerges from a B-17 bomber in Santa Ana on May 4, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

Lou Tirado was held as a prisoner of war for eight months after the B-17 in which he was a ball turret gunner was shot down. The tail gunner and the pilot both died, but Tirado and six other crew members parachuted out and were imprisoned.

Thanks to a volunteer effort, Tirado took a ride in that same model, taking off in Riverside and landing at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana on Wednesday.

“It’s unbelievable. I still don’t believe it,” Tirado said. “The last time I was in a B-17 was the day we got shot down … 72 years in September.”

The B-17 bomber in which Lou Tirado took a flight is seen on May 4, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

The B-17 bomber in which Lou Tirado took a flight is seen on May 4, 2016. (Credit: KTLA)

Tirado got choked up as he spoke about the two crew members who died.

“They deserve a lot more than this,” he said.

Tirado, who now lives in Laguna Woods, was able to get into the plane's ball turret to take a look at the cramped seat in which he traveled into combat.

The B-17, part of the collection of an education nonprofit called the Collings Foundation, will be on display at the Lyon Air Museum at John Wayne Airport through Sunday.