Airplane GEEK

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Ace Told His Story at AirVenture

By Frederick A. Johnsen

Donald McPherson came to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 to get with a special friend from the past. Parked on the Warbird ramp is a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat restored exactly like the one Don flew in combat against Japan within 1945.

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The Hellcat carries the same markings as the one Don and several other pilots rode to victory in World War II. The fighter is part of the particular Fagen Fighter Museum inside Granite Falls, Minnesota. Evan Fagen worked with Steven Hinton and a crew throughout Chino, California, to breathe life into this Hellcat after it had been ground bound for 40 years.

When Evan Fagen first chose these markings for the museum’s Hellcat, he did not know pilot Don McPherson lived around a small Nebraska farm town. Evan made his acquaintance and began a friendship that was evident as typically the two talked about the Hellcat at a Friday Warbirds in Review session.

Steven Hinton told the crowd more than 12, 000 Hellcats were built, and the fresh restoration at AirVenture makes the total number of Hellcats currently flying six aircraft. Steven and Evan felt compelled to obtain this Hellcat refurbished on Don’s markings and fly it to Nebraska to share the results with him. “Seldom do you have a chance to restore an airplane for a veteran, ” Steven said.

The Hellcat was missing some components. Its fuel system was dried plus cracked and needed rework.

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Hinton told this audience, “The Hellcat is an easy airplane in order to fly. ” Employing varying degrees of combat maneuvering flaps, “It can turn exceptionally tight, ” this individual added.

His first fight was an airfield strike on Kyushu, during which Don fired rockets and machine guns in a Mitsubishi Betty twin-engine bomber on the ground and watched it explode. In often the abrupt pull-up the new combat pilot made low to be able to the ground, the engine of his Hellcat quit. He restarted it with a seatback-slamming jolt, he recalled. Upon landing, Don’s aircraft captain greeted the returning warrior and told your pet, “There’s a hole about a foot behind your back. ” Don’s first fight saw him give, in addition to receive, damage.

Another sortie found Don and his shipmates facing Japanese Val dive bombers, probably aloft to avoid being caught on the floor during a bombing raid. Two succumbed to the guns associated with his F6F.

A special mission for you to fly combat air patrol (CAP) for American radar picket destroyers north regarding Okinawa became an aerial melee when the Hellcats arrived as hundreds involving kamikaze aircraft were attacking the picket ships. He saw two floatplanes boring deliberately for a destroyer. Overshooting one of your enemy kamikaze planes, Put on downed the other. In the exact ensuing fight, he claimed two more victories. McPherson was an ace, listing five aerial victories.

After the war, promotion for ensigns was slow in coming, so Don returned to the very family farm in Nebraska, also conducting rural mail delivery for the post office.  

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