Air Force veteran Warren Weinstein enjoys Monday mornings at the West Hills Wendy’s fast food restaurant where, for more than a decade, a group of about 75 Southern California veterans calling themselves Wings Over Wendy’s has been meeting to swap war stories and camaraderie.
“I’m in awe of some of these gentlemen,” Weinstein says. “They’re in their 90’s, and being a pilot, particularly a B-17 and B-29 pilot, I was talking to some of these men who were on the actual missions over Germany, Ploiesti, the oil fields of Romania, some of the famous raids of WWII. These men have stories to tell.”
Westlake Village resident 85-year-old Weinstein was a rescue pilot in the service from 1950-1953 and had his own adventures. His 10-member crew was in charge of going to crash sites to determine if there were survivors. If so, with a para-rescue jump team, they would get them flown safely to a hospital. On a good day, he was able to save lives at a crash.
On one of his adventures in the jungles of Brazil, although there were no survivors, Weinstein recalls recovering $2 million dollars in diamonds on a crashed flight. Weinstein says no one will read about this in any of the history books.
“They believe that those were diamonds that the Germans confiscated from the Jews and they were being flown to New York when the plane went down,” Weinstein says.
As Weinstein recounts the story a businessman in Rio de Janeiro was going to fly a team of five natives into the crash site and to retrieve the diamonds for $100, American money. The natives did get the diamonds, but were surrounded by headhunters. In an extensive mission, Weinstein and his crew along with a helicopter captain managed to get the natives out and the diamonds in their rightful place.
Ironically, during his time in the service, Weinstein was never in a war zone. During his following 33-year employment as a pilot for American Airlines, however, he did end up in a combat zone when he signed up in 1966 to fly non-military necessities such as food and medicine into Da Nang during the Viet Nam War. He did that twice a month for seven months until his pregnant wife finally protested.
“I had a stellar career,” Weinstein says.
Southern California Life Magazine joins the rest of the U.S. to honor our vets, and we tip our hats to the honorable men and women of “Wings Over Wendy’s” who have faithfully sacrificed so much to serve our country.
Photo Credit: Erica Goddard • www.bossybosspics.com