WWII plane finds new home on Ford Island
By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer
After nearly 30 years of guarding the entrance to Hickam Air Force Base, a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber yesterday became the first plane in the Pacific Aviation Museum's expanding collection to make its way to Ford Island.
That's a year later than anticipated due in part to fundraising that has not met expectations.
Raising the estimated $50 million to open the museum has been one of the biggest challenges, said museum director Allan Palmer.
Even with state and federal grants and a local fundraising effort, the museum has raised only about $13 million.
However, "I'm pretty optimistic we can make it," he said, saying that's more than enough for the museum's first phase and citing a national fundraising campaign to begin in next January.
But yesterday it was all about the B-25.
The bomber began its trip to Ford Island on Saturday when a crew of 10 men helped take the plane off its pedestal at Hickam and started tugging it over fields and hoisting it over fences and across parking lots.
Yesterday morning, the 18,000-pound aircraft was lifted by crane and guided by a crew of approximately 15 men onto a barge bound for Ford Island.
The B-25 bomber is mostly remembered for a daring raid on Tokyo in April 1942 led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.
The bomber was not designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers.
But in the Tokyo raids, 16 five-man B-25s took off from the USS Hornet at sea in order to be close enough to carry out the mission. Afterward, they had to crash-land in Japan or China.
Most of the crewmen made their way back to the United States, but three were executed by the Japanese and three others died in crash landings.
This story is among many others that will center on planes displayed at the museum.
The B-25 Mitchell bomber, which is best remembered for a 1942 raid on Tokyo, will join a collection of warplanes that are to be featured in the planned Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.
The museum has nine other planes that are being stored at various locations on O'ahu and is in talks with an Oregon museum to acquire 15 others.
But while the collection of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War aircraft continues to grow, Palmer said, the museum isn't just about planes. "They're actually kind of background," Palmer said.
The museum is more about telling the stories of those who sacrificed their lives in these wars, he said.
"It's as important a story from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, as it is today. We want to recognize those people and tell their stories in some depth."
The first phase of the project restoration and renovation of Hangar 37 will cost an estimated $7 million, Palmer said.
After its completion in 2006, the 42,000-square-foot building will house most of the museum's exhibits, a gift shop, restaurant, children's education center and theater.
The remaining hangars and the control tower are to open by 2008 and become a part of the larger mission to educate visitors about World War II and the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.
Reach Loren Moreno at email@example.com or 535-2455.