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WWII veteran reunited with P-51 Mustang 77 years after his plane was shot down

McCubbin flew several missions over Germany in the P-51 Mustang before his plane was shot down in 1945.
James McCubbin, WWII veteran, stands in front of restored P-51 Mustang.
James McCubbin, WWII veteran, stands in front of restored P-51 Mustang.(WGCL)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 5:46 PM EDT
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ROME, Ga. (CBS46) - A World War II veteran from Rome received a surprise on Wednesday he likely won’t soon forget.

Even at 101 years old, James McCubbin still fondly remembers the rush of sitting in the cockpit of a long-range P-51 Mustang fighter.

“He loves that plane,” said Catie Mason, director of resident services at Renaissance Marquis where McCubbin lives. “His face lights up when he talks about that plane.”

McCubbin was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He flew several missions over Germany in the P-51 Mustang before his plane was shot down in 1945. He was a prisoner of war for three months.

“He can tell stories about when he was captured as a POW and some of the events that took place trekking across Germany, begging for food once he was released,” Mason said.

On Wednesday morning, McCubbin got to take a trip down memory lane. Staff at Renaissance Marquis coordinated with Commemorative Air Force to land a restored P-51 Mustang at the Richard B. Russell Airport in Rome.

“Does it look like what you flew,” Mason asked McCubbin as they walked toward the plane. “Yeah,” he replied. “Lot of memories, uh,” another person asked. “Lot of memories,” he replied.

“This pilot said, ‘I’m in no hurry,’” said Steve Forsyth with Commemorative Air Force. “‘If we can get him in the plane, I’m here as long as you need me.’ That’s the kind of attitude our people have.”

With Rome Fire Department assisting, McCubbin mustered the strength to climb a ladder almost to the wing of the wartime fighter plane. While he decided against taking an actual ride, he did take a moment to re-create a picture snapped of him, with his plane, more than 70 years ago.

“I’m trying to hold my stomach in,” McCubbin joked. “Very nice of you guys to do this.”

They’re memories that serve to honor, educate, and inspire.

“He fought for our country and sacrificed so much just so we can do what we do today and for him to just be able to put his hands on it again, it’s emotional,” said Mason with tears rolling down her eyes.