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Surrounded by the vintage aircraft they remembered from their days in the U.S. Navy, two aviators who fought alongside each other in World War II reunited after 72 years, thanks to the efforts of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum.

Commander Robert Turnell, 93, and Lt. Ray Owen, 95, first met in 1944 and went on to fly as part of Navy Fighter Squadron VF-81, stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. The men flew the F6F Hellcat, and a video of their reunion captures the men reacting to the plane at the museum in Everett, Wash.

“It looks a lot larger. I don’t remember it being that big,” Owen said. “It was a nice plane to fly. I didn’t mind flying it.”

“It was a hot machine,” Turnell added.

WWII pilots
(Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum screen shot)

According to a post on Allen’s website, the reunion came about after Owen’s son, Ray Jr., saw Turnell in footage from Chronicles of Courage, an oral history archive project developed in part by Allen’s Vulcan Productions. The project highlights the heroes from WWII — both the aircraft and the men and women who flew them.

Wearing flight jackets, Turnell of Bothell, Wash., and Owen of Detroit, saluted upon first meeting and then spent some time touring the museum and looking over photographs of their squadron.

“I started collecting these unique aircraft not only to preserve the planes, but even more important, to preserve the human stories they really represent,” Allen said.

F6F Hellcat
The F6F Hellcat. (Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum Photo)
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