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home : community : community news June 24, 2016

The Commemorative Air Force’s B-25J, “Show Me.” (Paul Hannah photo)
The Commemorative Air Force’s B-25J, “Show Me.” (Paul Hannah photo)
8/22/2014 7:30:00 AM
World War II era B-25 Mitchell medium bomber to stop at Eagle River

Brian Jopek
Lakeland Times Reporter


The 74th anniversary of the first flight of the North American B-25 "Mitchell" medium bomber was Aug. 19.

During World War II, the aircraft served in all theaters around the globe and was used by several Allied countries, some of them for many years after the war ended.

Despite the twin-engine airplane being the workhorse it was throughout the war for the United States Army Air Force and used for high level bombing and also for low level bombing raids on everything from shipping to railroad targets and convoys, it's probably most famously associated with the Doolittle raid on Tokyo that took place on April 18, 1942.

In that raid, 16 USAAF B-25B Mitchells, led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, flew off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hornet and successfully bombed Tokyo.

While there wasn't much physical damage caused by the Doolittle raid, the morale boost it gave a United States still in the shadow of the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor the previous December was crucial.

It's this history those B-25s still flying and making the air show circuits every year try to live up to.

One of those B-25s will be in Eagle River Sunday and Monday.

'Show Me'

A B-25 J Mitchell named "Show Me" and belonging to the Commemorative Air Force's Missouri Wing will arrive at the Eagle River Union Airport Sunday night.

On Monday, the B-25 will be on display.

The wing's public information officer, John Holechek, said the plane and crew will be coming from the Duluth Air and Aviation Expo.

"The pilot has connections to Eagle River," he said.

Holechek said the pilot, Dave Thompsen, made arrangements with the staff at the plane's home base in St. Charles, Mo., for the aircraft and crew to make a stop in Eagle River on their way back to Missouri.

Thompsen said his parents have had a summer home on Indian Lake for nearly 25 years.

He said the Eagle River stop wasn't quite a last second consideration.

"About a month or so ago I started thinking about it and thought, 'You know, I wonder if, operationally and whatever, we could fit it in our schedule,'" Thompsen said. "We usually take the B-25 out for three days at a time. This would make a five-day trip for us but we thought 'Mom and dad have the house there and it's Eagle River, a pretty nice community. And it's not too far from Duluth. So, why not swing by?'"

He lives south of Chicago and flies Boeing 777 airliners for United Airlines when he isn't flying the B-25 for the CAF, which he's done since 2010.

Thompsen flies his own Cessna 172 from his home south of Chicago to the St. Louis area to fly the B-25.

"I've been an airline pilot for 23 years," Thompsen said. "I tell my wife I fly for the airline as my day job and fly the B-25 as my volunteer work."

For Thompsen, flying the B-25 is a very enjoyable thing to do but it is also being flown to honor the men who flew it during World War II.

Flying the Mitchell is, as he put it, humbling.

"It's an honor," Thompsen said. "You think about the history of the airplane and all the things it accomplished in the war from Doolittle taking off from the carrier and bombing Tokyo to every other theater of the war it was in. You realize the people flying the B-25 when they had to were getting shot at and attacked. We have the honor of flying it in peacetime."

Monday in Eagle River

"People can come out and take photos, talk with the crew members, check out the plane and have an opportunity to ride in the plane," Holechek said.

A 30-minute ride on "Show Me" costs $395 per person, a large portion of the proceeds going to keep the B-25 flying.

"We haven't changed our price for that ride in five years," Holechek said. "We can take five people at a time, two up front behind the pilots and three toward the rear of the plane."

During the course of the flight, those in the main part of the fuselage can be in the waist gun positions as well as the tail gunner's position.

Up front, in the nose, the two passengers can take turns at the bombardier's position.

"It's one heck of a view, I can tell you," he said. "They're all pretty awesome views. It's pretty exciting."

Holechek said his father served with an F4U Corsair fighter squadron in the Pacific theater during the war and that's what got him interested and involved.

"My wife and I have both been members of the wing for the last three years," he said. "I'll tell you it's just a thrill to hear those radial engines power up and be able to ride on the plane."

"We still hear the same sounds, smell the same smells and feel the same things when we start the engines and run the airplane," Thompsen said. "It's a real sensory experience."

"Show Me" will be open for display and rides beginning at 8:30 Monday morning at the airport.

Brian Jopek may be reached at bjopek@lakelandtimes.com.





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