Remembering World War II

Museum open house marks anniversary of Pearl Harbor

A military re-enactor shook hands with 99-year-old Bob Brix of Clara City during an open house at the new Navy Hangar at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. Brix was one of two WWII veterans who attended the open house Thursday.

GRANITE FALLS — December 7, 1941, was a day that changed history – and the lives of the Americans who would go on to serve their country during World War II. On Thursday, the crowd gathered at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum marked Pearl Harbor Day by learning about the Navy’s role in the war, and getting to meet WWII veterans.

“It means a lot to me,” Navy ace Donald McPherson said of seeing the exhibits at the museum’s new hangar. It was important for younger generations to learn about the war, he said. “This really is for them.”

The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum, located near Granite Falls, held an open house for its new Navy Hangar on Thursday. Visitors ranging from middle and high school students from Yellow Medicine East, to veterans and members of the public, all came to see the new hangar.

The hangar was a project that has taken 14 months to complete, said museum director Diane Fagen. It was good to finally be able to share it with visitors.

“We feel this is very exciting for our area. We have visitors from all over the world that come here,” Fagen said.

Fagen said the hangar was designed to help visitors imagine being on the deck of the USS Essex aircraft carrier during World War II. Airplanes on display included a Grumman F6F Hellcat, a Grumman F4F Wildcat, and a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. The aircraft are “the real McCoy,” Ron Fagen said. Outside the hangar, open house visitors also saw a Vought F4U Corsair which was on loan to the museum from the Jerry Beck family of North Dakota.

A 75-foot by 21-foot LED video wall in the hangar added to the feeling of being on a carrier deck, when it played footage of being at sea. Ryan Zimmer, of Advanced Ministry Technologies in Willmar, said the video display was the largest of its kind in Minnesota.

“We wanted to make sure that it felt like an open space,” Zimmer said.

Veterans of WWII were the guests of honor at Thursday’s open house. McPherson, 101, made the trip to Minnesota from Adams, Nebraska, to attend.

While McPherson wasn’t stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7 surprise attack, he said he did see the impact of the attack, before the Essex set sail. “When we got over there, we got to see all the damage,” he said.

McPherson piloted a Hellcat in the Pacific theater during WWII. He shot down five enemy aircraft during the war, making him an ace. The Hellcat on display at the Fagen Fighters Museum has been painted to match the plane McPherson flew in WWII, “Death N Destruction.”

Bob Brix, 99, a WWII veteran and Clara City resident, wore his military uniform to attend the open house on Thursday. Brix served with the Marines in the South Pacific, and was also on the beach at Iwo Jima. “I was helping get the wounded back to the ship,” he said.

Later on, Brix traveled to China and Japan when they were occupied. After the war, Brix returned to Minnesota, and ran a pharmacy in Clara City for 29 years.

Brix said he thought it was important to preserve the history of WWII. “I think the history of our country should be factual. It should be honest,” he said.

Ron and Diane Fagen said they hoped the museum would help continue to teach future generations.

“Let’s hope we learn a lesson that World War II will never be repeated again,” Ron Fagen said.


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