By Liz Kotalik. CREATED Jun 6, 2014 - UPDATED: Jun 6, 2014
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - On June 6th, 1944, allied forces on foreign soil made their way up the beaches of Normandy against heavy enemy fire.
But, just days before, there were B-17s dropping bombs near the Normandy coast, preparing enemy territory for a complete invasion.
But former B-17 pilot Dick Bushong told 9 On Your Side, D-Day prepping was happening months before. He and his crew hit dozens of enemy manufacturing plants, all while in combat thousands of feet in the air.
"I looked up, and there were a bunch of [fighter planes] coming," Bushong said. "One of them was coming toward us, and I watched him, and his guns started blinking. I remember thinking, that guy has me in his sights. It's very personal. He's aiming at me. Oh, I shriveled up as small as I could get."
Bushong is 92 years old and spends his time volunteering as docent at the 390th Memorial Museum, which is dedicated to the bomb group he flew almost 30 missions with.
"I have learned more about what I did then since I started working here than i knew while I was doing it." Bushong said. "It was scary then, but now that I look back on it, it's even more frightening. How did I survive?"
Bushong told us about a third of his bomb group came home safely, another third were captured and the last third died.
What's more, it's hard to imagine the extreme conditions airmen faced when flying in a massive machine like the B-17.
The windows in the plane were open without any covering, sometimes allowing 30 below temperatures to get into the plane. Bushong said he saw negative 50 degrees twice.
But he survived, and now, he's spending his life educating others about his experiences during World War II; experiences that helped forces succeed in Normandy, and changed the world as we know it.