There’s an old-hat easygoing comfort in the way the Warhawk Air Museum hosts its annual Warbird Roundup in Nampa, Idaho, every summer, but the event is far from the same each year.
This year, in addition to rousing start-ups and fly-bys with the Planes of Fame Museum’s P-38, F4U, and B-25, Warbird Roundup hosted the public debut of the combat P-47D Thunderbolt named “Dottie Mae.”
Other warbird owners brought P-51s and Texan trainers to the party, and the Warhawk Air Museum fired up its two P-40s, its P-51C Mustang, and its N3N biplane and Cessna O-1 Bird Dog.
“Dottie Mae” is the result of a multi-year rebuild by Mike Breshears’ Vintage Airframes warbird restoration shop in nearby Caldwell, Idaho.
Following a live and video presentation about the recovery and restoration of this combat veteran Thunderbolt, the fighter was dramatically revealed to the show attendees. The effect was compelling, and brought tears to the eyes of more than a few at the Warbird Roundup.There is something hopeful about the appearance of a World War II fighter like “Dottie Mae” in better-than-new condition, promising to bear witness to the heroics of the wartime generation even as the men and women of that era leave us in ever-increasing numbers.
The husky roar of the P-47’s turbosupercharged R-2800 engine on start-up helped to animate that era anew as “Dottie Mae,” in the hands of expert warbird pilot John Maloney, taxied to the runway at Nampa and flew for the benefit of the air show crowd.
“Dottie Mae” has been called the last American casualty of the European war. On May 8, 1945, this P-47 made a safe ditching in a lake in Austria. Pilot Lt. Henry Mohr scrambled out of the cockpit of his sinking fighter and was rescued by kids in a small boat.
“Dottie Mae” settled to the bottom of the lake, coming to rest inverted in a low-oxygen environment that aided in its preservation for six decades before being carefully lifted above the waves in June 2005.
Breshears’ restoration team appreciated the significance of this combat veteran Thunderbolt. Wherever feasible, they retained and restored parts from the original “Dottie Mae.”
When this was impossible due to damage from the ditching and the intervening decades, the restorers scoured the countryside for original P-47 replacement parts. The restoration team figures that 50-55% of today’s “Dottie Mae” is original wartime Thunderbolt — both from “Dottie” and other vintage P-47 sources. But of necessity, there’s some new metal in this machine.
Joining “Dottie Mae” owner Jack Croul on the ramp at Warbird Roundup 2017, was Bob Nightengale, who brought years of warbird experience when he oversaw the careful lifting of “Dottie Mae” from the lake. Mike Breshears and his restoration team could be seen tending the beauty they had just restored.
In addition to the well-deserved fanfare for the public debut of “Dottie Mae,” the Warhawk Air Museum also hosted Bob Cardin, who told of the equally remarkable recovery of a P-38 Lightning from under tons of Greenland ice and snow. That Lightning came to be known as “Glacier Girl” because of its location.
Though the restored “Glacier Girl” was not in attendance at Warbird Roundup, Planes of Fame did fly its P-38J up to Nampa to participate in the event.
The Warbird Roundup greets visitors each morning with a lineup of warbirds parked on the ramp outside the museum, separated by a rope barrier. The warbirds can taxi to the runway from this position, and upon landing they can swing around T-hangars to return to the line.
This gives show visitors a chance to see and photograph the show planes and to hear the varied sounds as each type of warplane starts up, sending exhaust through various types of stacks providing interesting nuances to the sounds. A Mustang’s sharp bark is different from the throaty rumble of the P-47, or the almost melodious sounds made by the P-38.
The Warhawk Air Museum is open during Warbird Roundup, providing a wide array of exhibits plus some welcome shade, as the Idaho sun can be fierce this time of year.
The flying show began with the morning sortie of the N3N biplane accompanied by a Vietnam-era O-1, or L-19, Bird Dog, and the occasional T-6 Texan.
Warhawk Air Museum’s two P-40s plus its P-51C and another P-51D next flew patterns near the field, followed by the debut of “Dottie Mae” and then more Mustangs, a Corsair and a P-38.
With a break for presentations and lunch, the flying demonstrations resumed in the afternoon, joined this time by Planes of Fame’s B-25J Mitchell twin-engine bomber.
Warbird Roundup is a cherished treasure in Idaho’s annual event calendar. As word of this world-class warbird gathering continues to spread, expect to see this show grow even larger in participation and attendance.
(I want to express my thanks to the staff and volunteers of the Warhawk Air Museum, the Planes of Fame Museum, and P-51 pilot Rob Gordon for their help with photo missions.)