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World War II Marine reunites with the aircraft he flew over the Pacific 72 years later

LtCol Purdy, photo from GoFundMe campaign.

A US Marine aviator who fought in World War II was reunited with his classic warbird after more than seventy-two years apart.

94-year-old retired Lieutenant Colonel Ferrill A. Purdy of Columbia, Missouri, was reunited with his F4U-1 Corsair fighter that he flew over the Pacific Theater in 1944.

Surrounded by 200 people, Purdy came face to face with the Corsair that kept him alive through horrific battles and even watched his children take to the skies in the (modified) backseat of his aircraft. While Purdy himself is now too old and frail to fly, he said that after thousands of hours in the air, he’s had enough time in the sky.

“I can’t tell you what the ride was like in the Corsair because I had my mind working on what was I going to do when I got to the target; what was I going to take care of when I was supposed to and is the Corsair in shape to do that very thing? Do I have the proper ammunition, proper bomb and enough gasoline to make it there and make it back?” Purdy said.

The rendezvous was made possible by Michele Spry, a friend of Purdy’s who raised $28,000 to fly the Corsair from California to Missouri. The Columbia Daily Tribune was on site to report the heartwarming occasion.

Purdy’s Corsair variant (which is an early type) is one of only 12 airworthy examples of the aircraft, which saw about 4,000 produced. It was found rusting away in pieces in the backlot of MGM studios in the 1960s, where the California-based Planes of Fame Air Museum nursed the old girl back to health.

Only 22-years-old when he enlisted on December 8th, 1941, Purdy flew this specific Corsair on June 24th, 1944, loaded with bombs and .50 caliber machine gun ammo.

Purdy would receive five Air Medals during his multiple tours of duty and is currently awaiting to find out if he will receive a Purple Heart for two wounds he sustained back in the day.

According to photographer Scott Schaefer, Purdy recognized his plane before he even got close to it.

“When he first saw it he said, ‘There’s a Corsair. I see a Corsair,” Schaefer recalled in a Facebook comment. “You could hear a little break in his voice. He saluted it as Michelle pushed his wheelchair towards the plane. I remember him also commenting on the tail wheel and how it was much better than what he had back in the day.”

Purdy’s daughter -Gayla Maier- developed a newfound respect for her father, who kept humble and rarely spoke of his exploits in the war.

“That gives me a respect, Dad, big time, for you,” Maier said to her father, embracing him after disembarking from his long-lost warbird.

The F-4U Corsair was one of the most well-remembered American fighters of the war in the Pacific, with an impressive combat record against both air and ground targets.

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