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After being rescued from target practice in the Mojave, a piece of WWII history flies into Cleveland

B-29 DOC
Posted at 5:10 PM, Jul 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 13:21:53-04

CLEVELAND — A piece of history came to Cleveland on Monday, and it was a Cleveland man who helped make it happen.

The B-29 bomber known as “Doc” rolled off the assembly line in 1945. A bomber just like it was used to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, eventually leading to the end of World War II. But, after the war, Doc was sent to the scrapyard of history.

“It was in the middle of the Mojave Desert in California being used as a ground target,” said Cleveland native Tony Mazzolini, the man who tracked Doc down in 1987. He learned Doc had spent the last 42 years being used as a target for the Navy.

“Their mission out there is to test ballistic coordinates,” he said.

Getting the Navy to let Doc go proved to be a formidable challenge.

“It took me 11 years to get it away from the government,” Mazzolini said.

He had to barter. He wanted the B-29, and the Navy wanted a B-25 for its Naval Aviation Museum in Florida. Mazzolini went to work and was able to find a B-25 in Venezuela. He arranged to have it dismantled and shipped by sea to Florida. Then he was finally able to get to work restoring Doc to flying condition.

World War II veteran Owen Hughes painted the nose art.

“I wanted it as shiny as they could get it, so they had to get polishers,” the 102-year-old said.

That shine made the job harder on him though. The reflection kept interfering with his work, until he realized he could make the reflection work for him.

“I held my painting down here, and I could see it on there, and that’s how I painted it,” he explained.

Doc was air-ready by 2016 and started touring air shows the following year.

Fast forward to today, and Doc is in Cleveland, along with Mazzolini and Hughes. The plane is making a stop on its History Restored Tour at Burke Lakefront Airport “to preserve our history,” Mazzolini said. “I want to honor those that built, maintained and flew these airplanes during that time period, to show our current and future generations a part of our history.”

It’s a day Mazzolini has been working toward for years.

“I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am and what a great feeling it is to do what I have done for the country,” he said.

RELATED: Traveling memorial honoring fallen service members makes stop in Northfield

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