Eloise Ogden/MDN Several of the World War II planes are lined up in front of the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot. The planes are, from the left, “Lope’s Hope 3rd, “Miss Kitty” and “Little Horse, all P-51s, and the British Spitfire. The Minot museum has the largest collection of World War II planes in one spot in central United States.
By Eloise Ogden, Regional Editor
The largest collection of World War II planes in one spot in central United States is located here in Minot at the Dakota Territory Air Museum.
These warbirds – from a legendary British Spitfire MkIXc that flew 74 missions in World War II including over the beaches of Normandy on D-Day to four P-51s, a C-53, a Canadian Harvard Mk IV and an FM-2P Wildcat.
The planes are owned by Bruce Eames of Houston, Texas, and housed at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot. Minot Aero Center does the maintenance on the planes.
Warren Pietsch, Minot, is the chief pilot of the fleet and also a Dakota Territory Air Museum board member.
An Interstate L-6 Cadet “Grasshopper,” a utility transport, liaison and observer plane used during World War II owned by Cindy Beck of Wahpeton, also is at the museum.
The collection of warbirds being in Minot got its start when Dr. Hank Reichert of Bismarck, owner of a P-51 Mustang “Dakota Kid II, “ displayed the plane at the Minot museum.
“Dr. Reichert had allowed us to use ‘Dakota Kid’ for a number of years,” said Pietsch.
When Reichert decided to sell his plane, he asked Pietsch to sell it for him. “People from Houston saw the ad and came here with the intent of buying that airplane – only that airplane – and to have me fly it in four air shows a year for two years. At the end of that period they were going to donate the plane back to the air museum,” Pietsch said.
“They came here, we had lunch and they saw what we were doing for kids’ educational programs and for honoring veterans. They thought that was pretty neat,” he said.
Pietsch took the Mustang to Houston to fly the first air show that fall. Ed Bosarge of Houston bought ‘Dakota Kid’ and another plane, a Japanese Zero. Bruce Eames, also of Houston, bought “Little Horse,” another P-51, at the same time.
“They got pretty enthused and we had a museum in Houston that we were in. That went on from 2010 until now,” Pietsch said. He said the hangar in Houston has been sold and Bosarge has decided to direct his interest elsewhere and has sold all of his planes except one which is being sold. The rest of the airplanes belong to Eames.
The Houston group also contributed along with the city of Minot to building the hangar, said Pietsch, referring to the hangar in Minot that houses the warbirds.
“We did a fundraiser and got half a million dollars from the city of Minot. They told me for every dollar I raised they’d give me two so that’s how we built this hangar. They (Houston group) paid for two-thirds of it,” Pietsch said. The hangar was dedicated July 4, 2013.
The planes have participated in air shows all over the country.
“We did a lot of air shows – in the Caribbean, Oshkosh… – all the major air shows in the country for the last seven, eight years,” Pietsch said, adding, “This collection of airplanes is probably the largest collection of World War II aircraft in one spot in the central U.S.”
Along with many air shows, the planes and pilots were in special observances including a 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E Day) commemoration in Washington, D.C., in May 2015.
When people visit the museum in Minot, Pietsch said they are quite surprised what they see there.
“People are amazed when they come in here – people in the industry and others just never expect to see what they see when they come to Minot and see this museum,” Pietsch said. He said the warbirds are part of it. “But the facility is beautiful, the people here – the volunteers and the workers here – do a great job in keeping the place nice and that has helped us maintain this fleet and have the people from Houston willing to leave their airplanes here plus we don’t have hurricanes.”
All of the World War II planes at the museum are flyable.
“Some of them have actual war history,” Pietsch said. “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 invasion. It’s an extremely historic airplane,” he said.
Warren Pietsch, pilot, with passenger Brinlee Sisk, Dakota Territory Air Museum staff member, prepare to leave the air museum in “Little Horse,” a P-51 Mustang, for a flight over Minot on May 8. The flight, presented by the air museum, was done in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day and to honor front-line medical workers and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Little Horse” is one of several World War II planes at the air museum.