NAMPA - Martin Fabricius smiled as he gazed at a line of gleaming World War II planes parked Saturday outside the Warhawk Air Museum at the Nampa Municipal Airport.
"They're beautiful," Fabricius said, admiring a group of P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts, T-6 trainers and other tail-draggers.
The 81-year-old Meridian resident was one of thousands of airplane and military buffs who braved the weekend heat to attend the two-day Warbird Roundup. More than a dozen planes were on display, and every half-hour a pair of planes taxied out and flew in circles around the airport.
Dick Fleischer, a Thunderbolt pilot credited with shooting down six enemy aircraft during World War II, was the guest speaker. He appeared both days and answered questions from onlookers. Fleischer flew 202 missions with the U.S. Army Air Corps in his plane "Solid Citizen." He was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters during the war. Each cluster represents a subsequent presentation of the same medal.
Fabricius spent four years with the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1955. He served in Germany as part of an air rescue group and served as a crew chief on a Sikorsky H-19 Chickasaw helicopter.
"I got to see most of Europe from 1,200 feet," he said, laughing.
He especially admired the three P-51s, which were used during World War II to escort bombers in raids over Germany and also served as combination fighter-bomber planes. Mustangs were responsible for shooting down nearly 5,000 enemy aircraft and helped the Allies dominate the air during the war.
"The P-51s were one of the greatest planes ever built," Fabricius said.
After the war, many of the planes were given to national guard units. Fabricius recalled how pilots with the Idaho Air National Guard flew P-51s for many years.
Fabricius said he always marveled at how good World War II fighter pilots were when they had only a small amount of glass to look through in all directions.
"They had to keep close track of where they were and where the enemy was," he said.
Nine-year-old Parker Phelps from Meridian accompanied his grandfather, Al Duddles of Kuna, to the show. The youngster's eye got real big as he looked up at the planes.
"I think they're cool," said Parker, who said he had attended several of the air shows with his grandfather.
Duddles restores old airplane radios and also has a great interest in the planes themselves.
"Oh, it's fun. I'd come and look at them every time they come in," he said.
Meridian resident Jack Stuart, 83, served with the U.S. Navy during World War II and spent time in the Solomon Islands. The only time he spent on a plane was when he once accompanied a crew on a daily 700-mile weather observation run, but he always admired the planes used by the Navy and the other branches of the military.
"It's amazing that they're able to keep these planes maintained like this," he said.
John Sowell: 377-6423Twitter: IDS_Sowell