80th anniversary of D-Day

Plane at Minot museum took part in Allied invasion

Eloise Ogden/MDN Warren Pietsch, Dakota Territory Air Museum board member and warbirds chief pilot, is shown with the Spitfire Mk IX fighter plane, in 2019 for the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at the museum. Eighty years ago, the plane, then with the Free French, flew over Normandy Beach during the days of the invasion in 1944.

Eighty years ago, a Spitfire Mk IX fighter plane, now part of the collection of warbirds at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot, flew over the beaches of Normandy, France, during the days of the Allied invasion, beginning the liberation of Western Europe and defeat of Germany during World War II.

The plane is one of the few Spitfires of that model flying in the world.

“The Spitfire flew 74 missions in World War II. It was flown by the Polish Volunteers in the RAF, and then transferred to the Free French and flew over Normandy Beach during the days of the invasion. It’s an extremely historic airplane,” said Warren Pietsch, chief pilot of the warbird fleet and air museum board member.

Many people will be gathering in Normandy, France, today to observe the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

D-Day on June 6, 1944, was the largest invasion ever assembled, landing thousands of Allied troops by sea and air on five beachheads at Normandy, and the start of Allied operations to liberate Western Europe. North Dakotans were among the troops involved in the invasion. Many who were involved in the operation are no longer living.

The Minot museum has the largest collection of World War II planes located at one site in central United States.

All of the 15 warbirds are flyable with the exception of one being restored. Bruce Eames of Houston, Texas, owns the majority of the planes.

Besides the Spitfire, the Minot museum has other planes that represent aircraft involved in the invasion.

“Little Horse, “Dakota Kid II” and “Miss Kitty,” all P-51D fighter planes, represent P-52Ds that flew in the D-Day operation.

The “Duchess of Dakota,” a C-53 Skytrooper, 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. (The C-47 was a militarized version of the civilian Douglas DC-3.) Lawler 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.


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