Retired Col. Tom Barr told the crew of the this B-17 they would sure get a case of liquor if they named their B-17 bomber "Soouthern Comfort." On Wednesday, the distiller is coming through for Barr with a ceremony to honor him at the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs.
His Yankee crewmates went along with him for the booze.
The 90-year-old Colorado Springs veteran said he told those men in 1945 that by painting the logo of the famous liquor on the side of the four-engine plane, the Kentucky distiller surely would send some of their 100-proof liqueur to the base in England.
"I convinced them we would send off to the company and they would send us a case of Southern Comfort," the retired colonel said Tuesday.
More than seven decades later, Southern Comfort is delivering.
"We're going to give him some very special gifts," said Rick Bubenhofer, who heads public relations efforts for Brown-Forman, the company that makes Southern Comfort.
The distiller is honoring Barr on Wednesday at the National Museum of World War II Aviation. Officials wouldn't disclose the surprises that await Barr, but one of them might have a Southern kick to laud a pilot who flew "Southern Comfort" for 11 missions during World War II.
It was Barr's daughter who finally sent off for that long-awaited liqueur in a letter to Brown-Forman's CEO.
"The letter was brought to the attention of the Brown-Forman Military Veterans Group (BRAVE) as their mission is to recognize and support active and retired military personnel," the firm said in a news release. "The membership of BRAVE unanimously voted to honor Colonel Barr for his service and the memory of his crew with a special ceremony."
Barr served 30 years in the Air Force and was a teenage latecomer to World War II. He signed up for the Air Corps, hoping they would let him finish college before they sent him to war.
"I wanted to be a CPA and attorney," he said.
The Air Force, though, suffered grievous losses in the skies over Europe - more than 47,000 died in the 8th Air Force alone - and rushed thousands of young men into the cockpit. Barr was sent to training in California, then shipped to Europe on the Queen Mary, where he and his crew had the debate over the bomber's name.
Barr said he didn't worry about danger during his missions over German-occupied territory.
"You've already done things you never thought you were going to do," he said. "You just take it and go."
The Boeing-built B-17 was aptly called the Flying Fortress. It bristled with .50-caliber machine guns and was known for its ability to bring crews home after severe damage from enemy fire.
"It was a great airplane," Barr said.
Arriving in England in April 1945, Barr was sent straight to combat.
"Six days later, I had six missions in," he said. "I came back and flew five more missions, and the war was over."
After World War II, Barr stuck with the service. He flew again in Vietnam before hanging up his uniform in 1974.
Bubenhofer said in honoring Barr, Southern Comfort is honoring all the men and women of World War II.
"There's too few chances left to show our gratitude to this generation of people," he said.