Minnesota’s Twin Cities were NOT the frozen north that I expected when I booked my flight for March 26. “Should I wear my boots?” I asked my friend, Chase, who picked me up at the airport and with whom I stayed the first night. She assured me that I didn’t need them.
I was in the Twin Cities as the guest of the Harold C. Deutsch WWII History Round Table and to be the featured speaker for their March 28 meeting at the Historic Fort Snelling Visitor Center. Colonel Don Patton, U.S. Army retired, was my host.
My North Country adventure began the morning of the 27th. With Don driving and doing double-duty as tour director, I saw Minneapolis-St. Paul and the historic confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The story of Minnesota’s famous flour industry (Gold Medal/Pillsbury) unfolded before my eyes at the Mill City Museum. From the observation deck, I got a great view (and photo) of historic St. Anthony Falls and the locks that take boats around the falls.
Great “Hangar Flying”
Lunch was with the Eighth Air Force Historical Society, their weekly meeting, complete with great “hangar flying” — that’s airplane talk for the uninitiated! Dinner (good salmon, good dark beer) with Don at the Twin City Grill in The Mall of America — which is huge and as awesome as advertised!
March 28th brought a tour of the Minnesota Historical Society WWII Exhibit AND a trip to the Air Guard Museum at Fort Snelling to see where the
Doolittle Raid B-25s were modified. I got to sit in the left (command) seat of a B-25 being restored. See photo at right!
Also saw Northwest Aeronautics-built CG-4 and CG-13 WWII gliders. WASP from classes 43-5 and 6 learned to tow the smaller CG-4s at South Plains Army Air Base in Lubbock, Texas — at low altitude, at night! The tow planes they flew were twin-engine C-60s and single-engine A-25 attack planes. — I will visit the Silent Wings (gliders) museum in Lubbock the same day you read this blog.
Lunch followed with members of the Richfield American Legion Post #435.
That evening, the events that brought me to the Twin Cities took place: first a Student Out Reach, then the main program, the Harold C. Deutsch WWII History Round Table. I joined Major Michelle Morse, a pilot with the 934th Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve, and Danielle Hemmingsen (a local WASP re-enactor) for both.
Books About WASP Leaders
My message for the 16 or so teenagers [several were girls] was, of course, the women ferry pilots of WWII. I told them about my new WASP biographies written for them — the young women of today: BJ Erickson: WASP Pilot and Nancy Love: WASP Pilot. BJ was a squadron leader and one of the few women who ferried all the pursuit (fighter) aircraft built during the war. Nancy Love, of course, was the founder of the original WAFS (Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, the first WASP) and the leader of the 303 WASP who ferried aircraft in WWII.
At the main event, I told an audience of more than 250 aviation enthusiasts about those women ferry pilots. WASP of the Ferry Command is the title of my book about those women. They flew newly built fighter aircraft from the factories to the docks at Newark, New Jersey. There, those planes were loaded aboard Liberty ships and sent to England to help win WWII. This was the single most important job performed by the WASP pilots during the war.
I showed my 16-minute documentary film, Five WAFS Up Close and Personal. In June 1999, I met, interviewed, and filmed these five women talking about their ferrying experiences. My first WASP book, The Originals (2001),also evolved from that encounter.
The evening concluded with Michelle, Danielle and I taking questions from the audience, after which I signed books. Then Don took us all out for dinner! A delightful evening!
My Adventure Wasn’t Over!
Friday, Don took me on a tour of Twin Cities Air Museums. First was Greg Herrick’s Golden Wings Museum, hosted by a very knowledgable Tom Lymburn. At C&P Aviation, owner Pat Harker let me climb into one of the twin cockpits on the P-82 he is restoring. (See the photo of Pat and me.)
At the Aviation Foundation Hangar — the one that rebuilt the BT-13 basic trainer that now resides at the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas — we saw a PT-19 primary trainer currently being restored. Bob and Judy Jasperson hosted us at the Wings of the North in Eden Prairie. Lastly, we visited the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Hangar at Fleming Field. Touched base with Jim and Amy Lauria, both VERY active with CAF and its current education project, the film and program “Rise Above: WASP.”
That’s it!!! I hopped aboard Southwest Airlines to fly home to Colorado, tired but very happy and pleased with the whole adventure. Thank you Don and the aviation community of the Twin Cities!