Special visitor Ken Axelson is a 97 year old WWII veteran who visited our museum with his family. During the war he served as combat medic, landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He later went through two weeks of intensive paratrooper training when the 101st Airborne needed medics, was in the Battle of the Bulge (Bastogne), and spent three months as a prisoner of war in Germany.
While he was visiting us he shared some of his story with other museum visitors, and with CAF members. We were honored to have him visit us.
You can learn more about Ken in a 2014 Pioneer Press article found here:
The Commemorative Air Force Minnesota Wing is more than just a museum. We are all volunteers with a mission and a purpose. While each of our reasoning is different for volunteering, we all agree - THIS is more than just a museum. Whether you volunteer, donate, attend an event, or take a history flight ride, your contributions help us continue to educate, restore, and honor.
Thank you to Hemlock Films for this amazing commercial: Director - Kara White, Cinematographer - Adam White, and Sound Recordist- Kevin Hines. You can view more of their work by their website.
Special visitors to the museum this month were two P-51 Mustangs. The sleek P-51 Mustang is perhaps the best all-around fighter of World War II. In 1939, British officials approached North American Aviation in desperate need of additional aircraft for the war in Europe. Just 117 days after the order was placed, the first P-51 was rolled out of the factory.
Equipped with an American-built copy of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, the P-51 quickly became one of the best-known and most feared fighters in the world—able to escort heavy bombers deep into enemy territory. A total of 15,567 Mustangs of all types were built for the Army and foreign nations. In combat, they destroyed nearly 6,000 enemy aircraft, making the Mustang the deadliest Allied fighter of World War II.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron’s P-51C Mustang, named Tuskegee Airmen, is an authentic and fully restored operational fighter from the WWII era. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC), a precursor of the U.S. Air Force. Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II. Their impressive performance earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces. This awe-inspiring aircraft sparks conversations to educate young and old alike about the often-overlooked history of the Tuskegee Airmen that flew this same model as their signature aircraft in WWII.
The Mission of the P-51 Quick Silver is to honor and pay tribute to the veterans that have sacrificed their lives for the freedom and security of others. Quick Silver is a celebration of our nation’s armed forces. Every aspect of the paint represents those who have served, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. The black cape covering the front of the aircraft represents the veil of protection that our armed forces give us. That veil is one of the reasons why we have what we have today, freedom. As the cape extends to the back of the canopy, it spreads out and divides into feathers, symbolizing the eagle that has flown with every aviator since the birth of aviation in 1903. The black paint has tiny sparkling stars in it, each sparkle represents an American Veteran that served our great country; the unsung stars in our lives. These veterans are the glimmering star in a mother’s eye, a wife or husband’s heart, a son or daughter’s hope for the future. The silver ring behind the spinner represents the shinning halo of the guardian angel who guides service personnel, having given the ultimate sacrifice, to their final resting place. The black and white stripes on the wings are there, as they were on all allied aircraft on D-day. The stars and bars, proudly displayed, represent the armed forces symbol that all United States fighter planes carry. It carries the post war version because “Quick Silver” was never a part of a unit till after World War II. All of the bare metal of this P-51 Mustang is polished. Look closely into the metal, you can see for whom our veterans fought.
This month’s featured artifact is a rare, complete set of WWII manuals for the Consolidated Vultee B-24 Liberator in its original leather storage case. This particular set belonged to a Corporal Eugene Byhardt. This was his personal set, as denoted by his name that has been embossed in gold lettering on each of the manuals as well as the case itself. What is unique about this particular set, is the inclusion of the Consolidated Aircraft control yoke center cap with the company logo that has been attached to each end of the case. These were popular with manufacturers of the era and often seen in the center of the pilot and co-pilot’s control wheel. We have never seen this on any other existing example of a set of these manuals, making it quite rare.
These manuals were originally prepared by the Flight Service Department of Consolidated Aircraft, San Diego, California in 1942. The seven hardbound, leather-covered manuals include roughly 1,600 pages of material concerning the operation of the B-24 and its various systems, with each manual covering a different area of concentration. Being a wartime produced manual, several of them are marked ‘restricted’ with the following caution…
“Restricted. This document contains information affecting the national defense of the United States within the meaning of the Espionage Act, U. S. C. 50:31 and 32. Its transmission or the revelation of its contents in any manner to any unauthorized person is prohibited by law.”
The following manuals were marked restricted due to wartime secrecy:
The remaining unrestricted manuals include:
Along with the more well-known B-17, the B-24 Liberator was among the most ubiquitous of World War II bombers. Produced by the Consolidated (and later also by Ford Motor Company), the B-24’s superior speed, range and bomb load over the B-17 were offset by a reputation for difficult handling and a greater tendency to catch fire in battle. The B-24 remains to this day the most produced heavy bomber in American history, with over 18,400 planes produced in the various models. Over 3,200 of those aircraft were modified prior to being flown overseas just north of our hangar at Fleming Field at nearby Holman Field in St Paul. At its peak production, the modification center employed more than 5,000 workers.
EE-8 field telephones are mobile telephones intended for military use, designed to withstand wartime conditions. They can draw power from their own battery, from a telephone exchange (via a central battery know as a CB), or from an external power source. At the start of World War II, the EE-8 in a leather case with a leather strap was standard issue. However, experience in the Pacific showed right away that leather did not hold up and the EE-8 leather case was replaced by an olive drab canvas case with web strap.
A hand-generated crank on the side of the phone was turned in order to signal another phone or the operator. The signal range between these rugged, self-contained phones varied according to the type of wire used to connect them, and the conditions in which the wire was situated (wet, dry, in the air or on the ground), but generally averaged about 11-17 miles. However, a direct, point-to-point connection made with copper wire could extend the range up to an astonishing 360 miles.
After the war, some of the government’s surplus EE-8’s were sold to civilians households as a way for mom to call dad out in the garage to tell him dinner was ready.
The M1941 Mermite cans are insulated canisters with a rubber gasket at the top which contain 3 inserts with lids, as seen in the pictures. They were used for storing and transporting food or blood. The container is insulated, and was used to keep food hot or cold while it was being delivered to other soldiers. The 3 inserts would fit in a mermite can and the lid could be latched closed to keep the contents hot or cold. The cans had carrying handles on both ends and could be transported by truck, jeep, or troops. Some M1941 Mermite Cans were used for transporting blood to Army medical personnel. Such cans were designated for blood transport only. The bottles of blood would be packed in ice inside the cans so they could be used later for blood transfusions. It is not certain where the term "Mermite" came from. Some people think that it comes from the French word "marmite" which means "cooking pot".
These pictures show a few items from Army K and C rations and a mess kit we have at the museum.
The following is a description of food rations eaten in World War II:
A-ration: Garrison Ration. Fresh, refrigerated, or frozen food prepared in dining halls or field kitchens. The most valued of all rations.
B-ration: Field Ration. Canned, packaged, or preserved foods normally prepared in field kitchens without refrigeration.
C-ration: Individual Ration. A complete pre-cooked, ready-to-eat canned individual meal.
K-ration: Individual Ration. Designed as a short duration individual "assault" ration for paratroopers and other specialized light infantry forces.
D-ration: Emergency Ration. Bars of concentrated chocolate combined with other ingredients to provide high calorie content.
A-rations were generally whatever meat and produce could be obtained locally, so there could be great variety from one theatre of operations to the next. B-rations were generally used when there was inadequate refrigeration for perishable A-rations. The composition of the D-ration did not change much throughout the war but the C-ration developed many variations.
A- and B-rations were only served at bases or established camps in rear areas as they require cooking. C-rations could be eaten hot or cold and required no special preparation or storage, so these could be served almost anywhere.
The K-ration was an individual daily combat food ration which was introduced by the United States Army during World War II. It was originally intended as an individually packaged ration for issue to airborne troops, tank crews, motorcycle couriers, and other mobile forces for short durations of only 2 to 3 days. The K-ration provided three separately boxed meal units: Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper.
The two parts of the M1938 mess kit, also known as a meat can, could be fastened together as seen in these pictures. The flat-bottomed part with its folding handle extended could serve as a crude skillet to cook raw food, but it was too shallow and thin to be effective for this purpose. Instead, it was usually used for heating up pre-cooked canned food, or for reconstituting powdered eggs. Several versions of the meat can were produced for the Army since this item was first introduced in 1874.
To complement the mess kit, soldiers used a stamped cup especially molded to fit over the bottom of the US Army's standard one-quart (950 ml) canteen. This cup could be used to boil water for coffee, or for heating or reconstituting soup or other foods.
During World War II, the U.S. government tasked the Coleman outdoor camping equipment company to develop a compact stove for military use. The stove had to be lightweight, no larger than a quart-sized thermos bottle, burn any kind of fuel, and operate in weather from −60 to +125 °Fahrenheit. Within 60 days, Coleman came up with what became the G.I. Pocket Stove. Designated their Model 520 Coleman Military Burner, and referred to by the Army Quartermaster Corps as the M1941 Stove, the stove first saw service in November 1942 when 5,000 of the stoves accompanied U.S. forces during the invasion of North Africa. Over 1 million of the stoves were produced for war use, where it won high praise in the field: journalist Ernie Pyle ranked it "just behind the Jeep” in its usefulness. Six small hinged metal pieces on the top fold outward for use as pot supports, and fold inward for storage. The stove came with a two-piece telescoping aluminum case, which can be used as cooking pots. Source: Wikipedia
During World War II, another common source of heat for preparing food was small olive drab cans of jellied wood alcohol. The nomenclature was Fuel-Tablet, Ration Heating. The small can seen here could adequately heat a ration can or even boil water for coffee. The larger fuel can was meant to prepare rations for 5 people. The cans would be opened by prying under the lid. Then, the wood alcohol would be lit with a match or lighter. After use, the flame was extinguished by carefully sliding the lid over it. With the flame out, the can was resealed, thus saving the balance of the fuel for later use.
This month’s featured artifact is the K-11 compensating gunsight, part #655441 serial # 1611 made by the Sperry Gyroscope Company of Brooklyn, New York.
The K-11 was used primarily in the nose turret of the Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bomber during WW2. The K-11 Compensating Gun Sight was a late war innovation that used the aircraft’s altitude and speed with the direct correlation of where the weapon was pointed to calculate the reticle. The aircraft altitude and speed was programmed into the dial shown on the rear of the sight. The correlation was determined by drive lines that connected the K-11 Sight to the turret.
A compensating sight offsets the line of sight only to compensate for the speed of the firing aircraft. These sights did not take into account target range, but based their calculation on the angle between the gun line and the aircraft axis, using two dimensional cams.
The museum’s piece is a nice clean example and shows the bore sighting instructions on the side as well as front and rear folding sights. It also features the rear sun shield, which you don’t find on many surviving examples. This could also be folded down rearward and out of the way when not required. Note the placard that states that it can only be used in the nose cone position only. The K-11’s sister sight, the K-13 was another compensating gun sight that could be used in the side and waist gun positions and was mounted directly on the rear housing of the .50 caliber machine guns in those positions.
Recently the local Home Depot Store in Inver Grove Heights donated two Milwaukee battery operated Jobsite light systems to our wing. It was a fantastic donation that will help us improve safety by reducing extension cord clutter on the floor of our WW2 hangar. This was one of the many donations we have received over the years from individuals and companies.
Their donations help us keep our museum open, airplanes flying and WW2 vehicles at local events and parades.
During this season of giving we would like to thank a few of our generous corporate donors.
Lucus Oil Products, Inc
Advance Auto Parts
From all of us at the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota wing, a big thank you!! Our mission to inspire, honor and educate could not continue without their generous support.
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