POCATELLO – A World War II flying legend is in town this week and people are coming in droves to see it.
The B-25 “Maid in the Shade” landed at the Pocatello Regional Airport Monday morning and was greeted by a myriad of onlookers. The Veterans of Foreign Wars held a flag-raising ceremony shortly after it arrived.
The aircraft is here as part of the “Flying Legends of Victory Tour,” and Tour Manager Mike Garrett tells EastIdahoNews.com the purpose of the tour is to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Locals are able to see the plane up close and personal throughout the week and even take a ride in it.
“It’s a living history experience,” Garrett says. “To be up there in the plane, to feel it, to smell it — all the sensations, the sounds of the engine just like you’d experience in World War II without getting shot at — it’s just incredible.”
“Maid in the Shade” has been touring the country every summer since 2009. It went through a 28-year restoration process prior to that, Garrett says, and it’s one of about 40 B-25’s that are actively flying today.
The B-25 bomber was flown during the raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942 under the command of General Jimmy Doolittle. Sixteen B-25 models flew off the U.S.S. Hornet and bombed targets on the island of Japan.
Only 9,900 were built specifically for bombing missions during the war, Garrett says. The one on display at the airport was built in 1944 and first saw combat in November and December of that year.
Garrett says the plane flew 15 missions off the island of Corsica, which is painted on the aircraft, and bombed railroad bridges in Italy and Yugoslavia.
“We’ve restored it with the same colors it flew with the 318th bombardier group out of Corsica in ’44,” he says.
The bottom of the aircraft is covered with signatures of the men who flew it, men who were members of the crew, or men who helped build it. Some of the most famous ones are three members of the Tokyo Raiders, including Doolittle’s co-pilot Dick Cole, along with flight engineers David Thatcher and Ed Sayler.
“Cole passed away last year at the age of 102,” Garrett says. “They signed our plane several years ago when they were at one of the reunions at the (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force) in Dayton, Ohio.”
The B-25 is making a return visit to eastern Idaho after stopping in Idaho Falls last year.
The tour had a delayed start this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, Garrett says the response has been incredible.
With flights at the Pocatello Regional Airport limited to just three a day with a 35% load capacity, Manager Alan Evans says they’re excited to be able to host this event and for the great turnout so far.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to see some neat, historic aircraft … get their families and go see something a little bit different than what they’ve been able to do lately,” Evans says.
“Everyone leaves with a smile on their face. It’s an experience you’ll remember the rest of your life,” says Garrett.
The B-25 “Maid in the Shade” is on display through Sunday, Sept. 20 on the ramp by the air traffic tower at 1950 Airport Way. Ground tours are available between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Flights will be available Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Ground tours are $10 per person or $20 for a family of 4. Flights start at $325. To reserve a seat or learn more, click here.