Minot air museum displays Iwo Jima plane from World War II

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021

MINOT, N.D.  — It’s not brightly painted or as noticeable as some of the other aircraft at the Dakota Territory Air Museum but the Stinson L-5 Sentinel is a plane with significant history of having served duty during World War II in the Pacific.

The olive-drab colored plane in the Minot air museum was flown over Iwo Jima by Marine Corps Pilot Merton Hansen of Des Moines, Iowa.

The Battle of Iwo Jima was the epic military campaign between U.S. Marines and the Imperial Army of Japan from Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945.

In the L-5, the Minnesota native directed artillery, naval gunfire and air strikes against well hidden and highly defended enemy positions, according to the plane’s history. In 1945, the plane flew on at least 28 sorties and sustained damage in the air, on the ground from mortar, sniper and anti-aircraft fire over Iwo Jima with Marine Observation Squadron 5, the Minot Daily News reports.

These planes, nicknamed “flying Jeeps,” were one of the most important aircraft of World War II. The L-5s served as , liaison/observation planes used on the battlefield for a variety of work including delivering personnel, critical intelligence and needed supplies to the front-line troops, and on return flights, transported wounded soldiers often evacuated to rear area field hospitals for medical treatment, according to its history. Its color helped camouflage the plane on the ground and in the air when flying over forests or fields.

Much later in Reno, Nevada, Duncan Cameron, a pilot and former professional guitarist, got the plane. He patched the bullet holes in the plane and reunited Maj. Hansen with his old plane. Cameron received the Neil A. Armstrong Aviation Heritage Award in 2012 for the restoration of the plane.

Also a former member of the well-known country bands Sawyer Brown and The Amazing Rhythm Aces, Cameron wrote a book published in 2013 about the restoration of the U.S. Marine Corps combat Iwo Jima aircraft- the Stinson L-5 – and of reuniting the plane with Hansen, one of its original pilots.

Warren Pietsch, Minot, chief pilot for the warbirds at the Minot air museum, said Bruce Eames, Dakota Territory Air Museum supporter from Houston, bought the plane from Cameron in 2013. Hansen attended the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the well-known annual air show and gathering of aviation enthusiasts at Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“He was able to ride in the plane there,” Pietsch said. Hansen died in 2014.

The plane arrived at the Minot air museum this spring and is there for visitors to see.

The Dakota Territory Air Museum, Minot, is planning a fly-in and patriotic observance of the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the end of World War II in the Pacific.