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A home to history

The Fagen Fighters World War II?Museum near Granite Falls offers a little bit of everything for military history enthusiasts

September 22, 2012
Story, photo by Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

GRANITE FALLS

Step inside the new Fagen Fighters World War II Museum, and one is taken back to the early 1940s.

USO shows, presidential speeches during the WWII years, music and comedy shows are piped through the museum's sound system. WWII trainer and fighter aircraft are on display.

Article Photos

The WACO CG-4A glider was used to quietly transport troops during World War II. It was made for the U.S. Army Air Forces by the Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation of Minneapolis.

A grand opening for the museum is set for Saturday, Sept. 29. The event will include an appearance by Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot of the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that landed in the Hudson River in April 2009, USO-style entertainment, food and special guests throughout the day.

Museum director Greg Gibson said the original intention for the building that now houses the museum was to be a more secure hangar for the Fagen aircraft.

"Eventually it evolved to what you see," Gibson said. Construction began in April 2011. The decision to create a museum happened during the construction of the building, he said. The museum, which is located at the Lenzen-Roe Memorial Airport near Granite Falls, has two hangars, a WWII Quonset hut and a WWII control tower.

The WWII-era planes owned by the Fagen Fighters are part of the museum, which includes two P-51 D Mustangs, a Lockheed P-38, a P-40, a BT-13, a PT-19 a PT-22 and PT-26.

But that's not all.

"We have a lot of ground equipment," Gibson said.

Gibson said there's a half-track and other significant vehicles in the hangars, including a jeep that was the personal vehicle of Gen. Omar Bradley and an ambulance that was the first responding unit at Normandy on D-Day. There's also a Cushman Scooter Model 54, that was made for WWII Airborne troops, an M3 Troop Carrier, an unrestored 1943 Harley Davidson WLA, as well as other vehicles.

"That's a biker magnet," Gibson said about the WLA. "They love them."

The ground vehicles are also fully operational, Gibson said.

A beach scene that depicts the time when Ray Fagen landed on Utah Beach on D-Day is one of the main exhibits at the museum. The scene contains actual sand from Utah Beach, Gibson said. One of the figures in the scene that is in the sand is wearing a uniform that was on the beach back on D-Day; same goes for the 30-caliber machine gun.

A Quonset hut is set up in the museum, which depicts the 357th Fighter Group of the Army Air Corp's 8th Air Force.

"It commemorates that fighter group," Gibson said.

A WACO CG-4A glider that was used to quietly transport troops during WWII is also part of the displays.

Gibson said the museum also has a 40-foot authentic replication of a WWII control tower. The tower has authentic equipment, including teletype machines and typewriters.

"Which blows the kids away, they ask 'where's the screen?'" Gibson said.

A library is on the second floor of the museum. Gibson said the room contains lots of vintage WWII-era magazines, newspaper and smaller artifacts.

"(There's) tons of literature and radios from the aircrafts themselves, materials from the era," Gibson said.

Nebraska artist Dave Reiser has painted a couple of murals, including one of Utah Beach during the D-Day Allied invasion of Normandy. There's plans for more murals, Gibson said.

"Eventually the museum will be surrounded by murals," Gibson said. The museum also has an art gallery with several original oils, Gibson said.

Prints of hand signatures of astronauts, WWII aces and other notables are on display. Gibson said there's also touch screens located around the museum for an interactive experience.

Gibson just recently became the museum's director, a job he enjoys.

"I've always liked history and World War II in particular, so this is a blessing," Gibson said about his job as the museum's director. He said he was an aviation nut when he was little.

Before he came to the museum, Gibson was a coordinator for Fagen's Airshow team, where he booked shows and worked with the press.

"I know the Fagens and the business really well," Gibson said.

Gibson said the museum is also planning on having an outreach program for schools, where it will have study materials to assist teachers in instructing about WWII.

 
 

 

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