Air museum to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day landings

Eloise Ogden/MDN Warren Pietsch, Dakota Territory Air Museum board member and warbirds chief pilot, is shown with the Spitfire, a plane that flew missions during World War II, including with the Free French over the beaches of Normandy. The air museum will hold a special event on June 6 in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Seventy-five years ago on the morning of June 6, 1944 – D-Day – allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, beginning the liberation of Western Europe and defeat of Germany during World War II.

On Thursday, June 6, from 5-9 p.m., the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot will present “D-Day: 75.” A special invitation is being extended to all military veterans.

The air museum will be open normal hours on June 6 until 5 p.m. and then remain open for the special D-Day commemoration event.

Starting at 6 p.m., narrations will begin from guests including Consul Robert Pengelly at the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis and a representative from Minot Air Force Base. Pengelly is the incoming Consul and Program Manager responsible for political/economic relations and public affairs.

“They will talk about what D-Day is – the history of it, the 75th anniversary,” said Warren Pietsch, air museum board member and warbirds chief pilot.

Invasion stripes will be painted on the “Duchess of Dakota,” a C-53 Skytrooper, during the D-Day: 75 event planned for June 6 at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot.

“While the narrators are talking from 6 until 7 or 7:15, we’ll be painting the stripes on the C-53. That will be in the background,” he said.

Twenty volunteers from Minot AFB wearing World War II fatigues will paint invasion stripes on the “Duchess of Dakota,” a C-53 Skytrooper.

“They’ll reenact painting the invasion stripes just as it was done in World War II with brooms and mops,” Pietsch said. “The ‘Duchess’ is the same type of airplane that was used extensively in D-Day. They had C-47s and C-53s – hundreds of them.”

The airplane at the air museum represents the plane the late North Dakotan Murray Lawler flew on D-Day. A native of Emmons County, Lawler was a transport carrier pilot during World War II, flying C-47s. He named the plane “Duchess of Dakota” in honor of his future bride, Margaret. Margaret Lawler was the first war bride to arrive in North Dakota when she arrived in the state in 1946.

The Spitfire, a British fighter aircraft also at the air museum, flew missions in World War II.

Eloise Ogden/MDN “Little Horse,” a fighter plane at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot, also represents planes that flew in the D-Day operation.

“It flew 74 total in World War II but it flew 17 with the Free French over the beaches of Normandy,” Pietsch said.

“Little Horse,” a P-51 in the museum, also represents planes that flew in the D-Day operation.

The William G. Carroll American Legion Post of Minot color guard will participate in the event opening. Richard Reuer of the Legion Post will sing the National Anthem and a medley of the military branches.

Lynn Aas, a decorated World War II veteran from Minot, will be an honorary guest at the event.

The North Dakota Military Vehicle Collectors group will have vehicles at the air museum for visitors to view in addition to the normal museum displays, Pietsch said.

“There will be a drone cage here for people to practice flying drones,” The museum purchased the drone cage in cooperation with SkySkopes,” he said.

A Ford GAC V-12 tank engine will be operating at the event.

“We’ve got guys coming from Colorado and Washington to run this extremely rare engine,” Pietsch said.

Biplane rides will be available at $450.

About 7:30 p.m., Spitfire, C-53 and Mustang will be flown around the city and then return to the air museum.

“We’ll be giving 10 veterans from the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors (The F.E.W.) a ride in the C-53 during that event,” Pietsch said.

Another event, the Ale-From-Above Club celebration, starts at 8 p.m.

“We have a club who has an opportunity to reenact one of the lighter sides of the invasion at the end of the evening after the flight,” Pietsch said.

The event, being done by A-Typical Brewery & Barrelworks, Foundation for Exceptional Warriors and the air museum, commemorates planes that carried ale to troops at the front during World War II. A limited number of club memberships are available. All proceeds from the Ale From Above Club will be divided between The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors and Dakota Territory Air Museum.

Food and beverages will be available during the evening event from the Chicago Pub District.

Admission to the D-Day commemoration is regular admission to the air museum: $10 for adults; $5 for youth ages 6-17; and family, $20. No charge for children 5 and under. There is no charge for all military service members past and present.

“It’s going to be a busy three hours,” Pietsch said.

Pietsch and Robin Brekhus, museum events coordinator, are planning the D-Day commemoration. For more information or to sponsor an event contact Brekhus at 520-234-3901.

The next air museum event will be a July 4 air show with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and other air show acts. More information will be announced later.


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