History sure was loud Wednesday morning.
Mitchell residents woke up to the rumble of a World War II airplane flying high in the sky, as a B-25 bomber made its way across the state in honor of a historic raid.
In recognition of the famous Doolittle Raid of 1942, which was the United States' first retaliation to the Japanese after their attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the South Dakota Air and Space Museum put on a "Raid Across South Dakota." That included the WWII aircraft lifting off from Sioux Falls and flying to the Mitchell Municipal Airport at speeds of up to 250 mph.
The plane, coincidentally, is named "Miss Mitchell," and completed more than 130 missions from 1942 to 1944.
"These veterans that were a part of the Doolittle Raid are a symbol of courage and bravery, and it's so important to take the time to honor them - and all military veterans," said John Mollison, communications director with the Air and Space Museum. "History is nutritious, and we can only better our tomorrow by learning from our past."
Mollison said the Doolittle Raid was "an incredible moment of American courage." Two of the WWII veterans who took part in the 1942 raid were South Dakota natives Henry Potter and Don Smith.
Mollison said the idea to use a World War II-era B-25 bomber was to honor all veterans and those involved in the Doolittle Raid, which was known as one of the first moments in which the United States began to turn the tables on Japan in the war.
The flight in South Dakota took off after the Commemorative Air Force museum agreed to take part.
"There's no better way we could honor the historic raid than flying a 76-year-old authentic WWII bomber across the state," Mollison said after hopping off the plane. "And to be able to share this piece of history with the state of South Dakota, which had two brave members take part in the raid, it's a special feeling."
After the plane made a few flyovers above Mitchell early Wednesday morning, community members gathered at the airport. There, they witnessed a piece of history, as the B-25 bomber touched down, followed by the pilots of the plane greeting attendees. Among the crowd of spectators was WWII veteran Howard Bechen, 92, who got an up-close look at the plane, connecting him to his past service in the military.
While pilot Matt Quy has been flying the B-25 bomber to recognize WWII war veterans the past seven years, the feeling of pride the aircraft evokes for the Air Force Reserve pilot remains the same with each flight.
"This aircraft is a national treasure. And it's so unique to any modern day airplane in that there is really no other way to learn how to fly this plane without having multi-engine flying experience," Quy said. "It really is a symbol of American pride."
The B-25 bomber is a showpiece of the Commemorative Air Force's Minnesota Wing museum, where the plane is displayed year-round at Fleming Field Airport in South St. Paul, Minnesota. The CAF took ownership of the plane in the 1980s and began flying it in 1992, 50 years after its first raid in the war.
Quy, who is involved with the organization, which acquires, restores and preserves World War II aircraft. It also holds air shows around the country to recognize the veterans who flew the planes.
"Our goal is to educate and honor the memory of veterans, and I take tremendous pride in honoring the Doolittle Raid," Quy said.
Quy has found educational opportunities in his years of flying the B-25 bomber. Its uniqueness compared to modern day aircrafts, he said, adds an element of challenge while in flight, noting it's also the largest-operating war plane in the world.
"It's very powerful and noisy, and the aluminum is so thin that you could line 10 of the same aircrafts and shoot a 9-millimeter bullet through all of them," Quy said. "So when you think about the sacrifice of these veterans who flew these planes, it is something that really deserves to be honored and remembered so future generations don't forget."
Following the Mitchell departure, the B-25 bomber made two more educational pit stops in Pierre and Rapid City while making its way to Ellsworth Air Force Base, where there will be a private celebration for the Doolittle Raiders on Thursday.
On Friday, community members will have the opportunity to purchase a ride in the B-25 bomber. The event is open to the public from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at the airport, with rides costing $450.
"When you think about the sacrifice these veterans made flying in these bomber planes - that people were dying in on a daily basis - the amount of courage these WWII veterans had is remarkable," Quy said.