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Peter Hovde, Published August 24 2009

Thanks to Navy’s Blue Angels for stirring soul and memories

As our ears discovered last Thursday, the Blue Angels were back in town for the Fargo AirSho.

The ceiling was rather low, cloudy and rainy until later in the day. Around noon, the Blue Angels started practicing their low-altitude show. Over and over, whether two, four or six of them, the Angels came whooshing over, right over our house at an altitude of only a few hundred feet. The sound stirred up old memories.

Aviation, especially military aviation, has always been in my blood. I was a model airplane enthusiast before enlisting in Navy Aviation in 1963. We would spend summers driving to model airplane contests throughout the Upper Midwest. The culmination of each summer was the national model airplane contest, or “The Nats.”

The Navy sponsored the national contests, wanting to attract us pilots with our feet on the ground to Naval Aviation. Each summer the Navy would open a Naval Air Station to the Nats. Each year the Blue Angels performed on the last day of the weeklong contest. I can remember the sound as if it were yesterday. It stirred my soul.

When I was a little guy during World War II, we lived in Moorhead, as my father was the librarian at Concordia College. One of my earliest memories was of Hector Airfield. Dad had taken me out there so I could see the airplanes being ferried on to Russia.

Bell Aircraft made the P-39 Airacobra and the P-63 Kingcobra. They were mostly used by the Soviets on the Eastern Front against the invading German air and ground forces. The airplanes had to be ferried from the factory in Niagara Falls, across this country and Canada, on to Alaska, arriving in Nome, where they were picked up by Russian ferry pilots.

Many of the American pilots were WASPs, who were some of the best ferry pilots in the Army Air Force. These fabulous women, fabulous pilots, were treated shamefully at the end of the war by the Army of the time, an insult only recently ameliorated.

Anyway, when the western headwinds were strong, one of the fuel stops across country was Hector Airfield, Fargo.

My dad had put me up on his shoulders, so I could see. I could not recall that day any clearer than had it been yesterday. I can see those airplanes coming in on final approach. But most of all, I can still hear those wonderful Vee-12 engines. The sound stirred my soul. From that moment on, I wanted to fly.

And that’s the way it worked out, pretty much. My near-sighted eyes kept me from becoming a pilot, but being “just” a navigator flying all over the Pacific wasn’t all bad.

So when the Blue Angels came over our house, all this came back to me. And the sound stirred my soul. Thanks, Blue Angels, for the memories.