“Off we go into the wild blue yonder.” The United States Air Force song sums up a visit to the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot, North Dakota. The museum takes a look at American air history, including its impact to the central North Dakota city.
The museum, which includes two hangars and an outdoor display, opened in 1986. The first hangar contains the bulk of the exhibits.
A replica of the Wright Brothers’ flyer marks America’s birth of the air movement. Fast forward to the birth of the United States Air Force and its North Dakota role. Minot Air Force Base has seen its mission change over the decades, depending on the planes assigned to it.
Exhibits include uniforms and equipment. The base was once home to a unit nicknamed the “Spittin’ Kittens.” The air unit had an actual lynx as a mascot. It was a gift from an area farmer. The lynx was thought to be part of a cat litter on a farm.
Aircraft in the main hangar include military and civilian planes. Other vehicles include a jeep and Minot city fire trucks.
While the museum focuses on air history, it does take a look at American military history. Exhibits range from weapons from World War I to uniforms.
The second hangar is home to World War II vintage aircraft flown by the Texas Flying Legends. The museum houses planes during the Texas hurricane season. Aircraft include American, British and Japanese planes.
The P-51 Mustang changed the direction of the war. Until the plane came on to the scene, Allied forces struggled in protecting bombers. The Mustang is believed to have shot down almost 5,000 enemy planes.
The British Spitfire played a key role in the Battle of Britain. The Spitfire had a unique wing shape, which provided it agility. The plane was used in battles over Africa, in addition to Europe. It helped provide cover for the invading forces at Normandy during the D-Day invasion in 1944.
The Zero was one of the Japanese aircraft used in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941. The attack vaulted the United States into World War II.
Other aircraft on display includes a plane model that was flown during the war by former President George H.W. Bush. The TBM Avenger was a torpedo bomber used during the Battle of Midway. Mr. Bush autographed an Avenger for the Texas fliers.
The only plane to fly solo to both the North and South poles is on display. The “Polar Pumpkin” is a Cessna 185. It landed at South Pole in 1999 and the North Pole in 2013.
The museum’s outdoor section is home to a few planes that have called Minot Air Force Base home. The T-33 “Shooting Star” was part of the 5th Interceptor Squadron during the 1960s. The trainer jet was retired from the inventory in 1988.
The F-106 interceptor served at Minot from 1960 until 1985. The base had 45 F-106 jets assigned.
The F-15 “Eagle” served the Air Force at Minot for four years, before being deactivated in 1988.
The exhibit includes a memorial to a B-17 crew that crashed during an emergency landing attempt at the Minot Airfield. The Sioux City, Iowa, crew was on a training mission when the emergency occurred Dec. 12, 1944. Five of the nine-man crew died.
I’m a fan of military museums and Lisa and I enjoyed our visit. We recommend visiting the museum when in Minot. The museum is open seasonally, from May until the end of October.