Story and Photos By FREDERICK A. JOHNSEN
Attendees of this year’s Warbird Roundup in Nampa, Idaho, held June 27-28, benefited from the combination of craftsmanship, technology, and deep pockets that has breathed life into warbirds once thought impossible to see flying. Two classic and scarce razorback P-51 Mustangs went aloft at the same time, a feat unimaginable just a generation ago.
The P-51C “Boise Bee,” pride of the event’s hosting Warhawk Air Museum, joined a newly reconstituted P-51B Mustang, “Berlin Express,” which featured an operational Malcolm hood, a special modification razorbacks could get in England to increase the pilot’s field of vision.
“Berlin Express” is the latest handiwork from the Idaho Falls restoration shop, Pacific Fighters. Look for “Berlin Express” to be an award contender at Oshkosh this year.
If the twin World War II razorbacks drew their share of attention at Warbird Roundup, the event’s efforts at commemorating the 50th anniversary of the war in Vietnam were rewarded by the flying presence of a North American OV-10 Bronco counterinsurgency turboprop and a Bell AH-1 Cobra gunship, both from the Cactus Air Force collection in Carson City, Nevada.
In keeping with the Vietnam theme, author and war correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, co-author of the book “We Were Soldiers Once — And Young,” was the event’s guest speaker on both Saturday and Sunday. As Galloway spoke of his experiences in Vietnam, other veterans in attendance made sometimes subtle acknowledgments of recognition for things they commonly experienced.
It was evident the Warhawk Air Museum has become a place of perpetual homecoming and welcome for veterans of that difficult war that now reaches back a half century.
Warbird pilots flew aircraft from as far away as southern California to bring the show to life at Nampa. Tom Camp flew his World War II FM-2 Wildcat in the company of the Warhawk Air Museum’s two Curtiss P-40s. Pilots from Chino, California, arrived with an F-86 and a MiG-15 representing the Korean War era.
Two yellow N3N biplanes joined a newer O-1 Bird Dog from the Warhawk museum collection to open each day’s flying activities. The TF-51D Mustang “Lady Jo” made a return appearance this year, as did a brace of North American AT-6/SNJ Texan trainers.
On the ramp, the Warhawk Air Museum’s newly finished F-104G Starfighter dazzled the eyes in bright aluminum with original USAF markings restored as they had been before this supersonic jet served foreign air forces.
Unusually hot temperatures in the triple digits may have kept some in Idaho’s Treasure Valley hunkered down with their air conditioners as attendance was lower than last year’s event, which enjoyed temperate weather.
The museum does a good job of opening its hangar doors, creating a large and fan-blown shady haven as a counterpoint to the sun on the tarmac. And that’s a key to the charm of Warbird Roundup: The Warhawk Air Museum personifies the friendliness of Idaho. It is obvious that the museum’s staff and volunteers take delight in sharing the museum with the community.