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Megan Card, Published June 19 2012

‘Warbirds’ fly in: Featured fliers bring WWII ‘living history’ to Fargo

FARGO – At 22 years old, Alex Sahr was the nose gunner for an American B-24 bomber in World War II.

At 90 years old, sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a veteran’s cap, Sahr can still recall looking down on Omaha Beach in the four-motored warbird that June afternoon in 1944.

“We could see our troops, our ships were sunk and – the beach – the beach was red with the blood of our kids who never – who never made it to shore,” Sahr said.

Sahr’s stories are what Fargo Air Museum Executive Director Fran Brummond calls the “living history” people can expect when they attend a rare warbird exhibit that begins today at the museum.

The exhibit, featuring five restored World War II planes belonging to the Texas Legends Museum along with a number of other WWII planes, is on display until Monday. It also includes tours, storyboards of information and the opportunity to speak with past and present World War II aircraft pilots and crew.

During the exhibit, the Fargo Air Museum at 1609 19th Ave. N. will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Friday will also feature a “Wine and Warbirds” event from 4:30 to 6 p.m. hosted by the North Dakota Wine Association. The Page Community Music Makers will perform Americana classics.

One of the airplanes on display is the “Last Samurai” Zero, one of only two of the Japanese warplanes still flyable. The fighter aircraft’s restoration process began in 1989 under the guidance of the late Gerry Beck’s group, Tri-State Aviation. It made its first flight 15 years later in North Dakota. The Zero was known for its nimbleness, simplicity and the rising red sun insignia.

Staring up at the Zero, 91-year-old Stew Bass remembers the rising sun insignia not from pictures but from his time with Air Group Nine flying off of carriers in the Pacific.

“Of course, we were struck by the Japanese, Zeros and other warcraft, a number of times, but the Zero was a very nice airplane,” Bass said. “They did us a lot of damage. Having this one part of the museum, and being restored by Mr. Beck, that is bringing together a lot of history right there.”

Sahr, who has been speaking to groups of schoolchildren about his experiences in the war, said he is surprised by how interested and well-read they are about their nation’s history.

“One day, I forgot to tell them about D-Day, and a hand shot up and said 'What about D-Day, Alex?' ” Sahr said. “By golly, these kids know their stuff, and they want to learn. This exhibit, this museum, gives them the chance.”