Richard “Dick” Hammond of Auburn, top row third from right, poses with the crew of the B-17 Pig Chaser when he was its tail gunner during World War II. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — On a sunny afternoon in late September, a small crowd gathered at the edge of the tarmac at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport watched a shiny P-51 Mustang join other vintage World War II aircraft participating in the Wings of Freedom Tour.

Richard “Dick” Hammond of Auburn holds a piece of flak shrapnel that was embedded in his B-17 Flying Fortress, the Pig Chaser, on a bombing run during World War II. He kept it for good luck, he said. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Heads snapped to the western skies when someone yelled: “Here comes the 17.”

Some were there to just get a glimpse of the Boeing B-17 Nine-O-Nine Flying Fortress; a few were going for a ride.

Arguably the headliner of the show, it was just a tiny speck in the clouds but easily identified from far away by one of the aircraft buffs in attendance who knew its history, details and specs.

For Richard “Dick” Hammond, 95, of Auburn, his connection to B-17s was far more intimate.

Aided by a neighbor and close personal friend, Pam Rousseau, Hammond was on a mission to ask the Nine-O-Nine crew if they knew what happened to Pig Chaser, the B-17 he flew in as a tail gunner during World War II.

Rousseau helped steady Hammond as she clutched a list of his 50 missions and a photo of him and the crew in front of Pig Chaser.

Richard “Dick” Hammond of Auburn came to the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport on Sept. 25 with a photo of himself in front of a B-17 when he was its tail gunner during World War II. He wanted to ask a pilot if he knew what happened to the B-17 named Pig Chaser he flew in in World War II. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The photo was taken in Florida after training, or sometime during their tour to South America, Africa and the flak-riddled skies of Europe as the Allied forces began their invasion of Europe and Germany.

Hammond had heard the Pig Chaser was in a museum. He hoped the crew of Nine-O-Nine might know where.

After talking to the pilots and a search online, Hammond, Rousseau and the pilots discovered the Pig Chaser was destroyed during a bombing run shortly after Hammond and his crew returned to the states.

On Oct. 2, the Nine-O-Nine was destroyed when it crashed into an airport de-icing facility at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut, where the Wings of Freedom Tour was being showcased.

While those two Flying Fortresses and most of their crews are gone, Hammond holds on to two pieces of shrapnel that tore through the Pig Chaser during one of his early missions. The crew was preparing to bail out when the pilot regained control of the rugged aircraft. Hammond said he kept the shrapnel for good luck.

A photocopy of the list of missions Richard “Dick” Hammond of Auburn flew as the tail gunner on the B-17 Pig Chaser during World War II. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


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