Fighting for freedom: Warbirds saw action in World War II

Eloise Ogden/MDN President George H.W. Bush signed one of the props of the TBM-3E Avenger in 2013. The plane was dedicated to the former president who flew TBM Avengers during World War II.

They fought for freedom.

Several planes of the Texas Flying Legends Museum collection saw action in World War II. Some of of them are displayed in the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.

“This aircraft actually sank two Japanese ships, a destroyer and a cruiser, and the names of them are right up here on the side,” said Warren Pietsch, Minot, chief pilot and vice president of operations for the Texas Flying Legends Museum, telling about the TBM-3E Avenger at the Minot air museum.

He pointed out the names of the ships, the Nashi (a destroyer) and the Oyodo (a cruiser) are shown on the side of the plane.

“It was two different crews, same day,” he said.

Eloise Ogden/MDN This P-40 owned by the Texas Flying Legends Museum fought against the Japanese in the Aleutians during World War II. It is displayed in the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.

The TBM also dropped supplies to allied prisoners of war right after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan, he said. “It also flew over the surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri.”

“The thing about these airplanes is usually they don’t come back especially in the Pacific. They’d dump them off the carriers so they would have more room for troops to come home,” he said.

President George H.W. Bush has signed one of the prop blades. In 2013, the plane was dedicated to the former president who flew TBM Avengers in World War II, according to TFLM information.

“This P-40,” Pietsch said, indicating a nearby plane, “was in the Aleutians during the war and fought against the Japanese in the Aleutians.”

Another P-40 in the hangar with its engine removed at this time was a lend-lease airplane that was in Russia involved in a dog fight with four Luftwaffe’s (German air force) airplanes,” Pietsch said. He said the pilot and his wingman both became disoriented and ended up landing in a swamp near Murmansk in Russia. “That’s where the airplane was recovered from,” Pietsch said.

He said two trainers in the hangar were used during the war to train pilots.

The Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX and the Japanese A6M2 Model 21 Zero also saw combat action. They will be arriving at the museum later this summer.

Pietsch said the Spitfire flew 74 missions in World War II in the European Theater. The plane was with the Polish Volunteer Royal Air Force Squadrons and the Free French RAF Squadrons.

He said the Zero saw action in the South Pacific as the enemy. He said it was stationed just south of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.

“Honoring Our Past – Inspiring Our Future,” is the motto of the Texas Flying Legends Museum.

Texas Flying Legends Museum planes make a number of appearances in air shows and other events during the year. When they appear they are always the topic of discussion for many people. He said the TBM had a crew of three so it’s not uncommon for someone to stop by and tell about their experiences in the TBM. “Just about every show we go to a World War II veteran comes up and talks about the airplanes,” he said.

The Texas Flying Legends Museum’s warbirds will be at the Dakota Territory Air Museum until about July 24.

The Zero and Spitfire are scheduled to return to the Minot air museum in early August and will remain here until Sept. 6.

The planes will be in a number of shows this fall, including the air races in Reno, Nev., a display at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., for the 70th anniversary of the Air Force and flying at Nellis AFB at Las Vegas, Nev., for Aviation Nation, an event including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.