Fagen Fighters WW II Museum honors PEARL HARBOR DAY with Veteran speaker Don McPherson

Jess Gorman
Granite Falls Advocate Tribune

The 80th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor was commemorated at the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum on Tuesday, December 7.  World War II Veteran and Navy Ace, Donald M. McPherson, age 99, of Adams, Nebraska, spoke with the large public audience that gathered for the afternoon event.

Fagen Fighters Museum honors Pearl Harbor soldiers with speaker Don McPherson.

Sitting stoically at the front of the visitor-filled hanger, Mcpherson sported a sling, ironically and heroically from an injury that occurred while collecting flags on Veterans Day. A fractured shoulder almost stopped the Veteran from traveling to the Fagen Fighters gathering, but with clearance from his doctor the day before allowing travel, not even the Tuesday snow and bum wing could keep the flying Ace down.

Fagen Fighters Museum honors Pearl Harbor soldiers with speaker Don McPherson.

McPherson spoke to the crowd, giving accounts of his days in training at Pearl Harbor after the attack and later in air to air combat during World War II. Don gained Ace ranking from his time in WW II combat. The Veteran explained the ranking is achieved by shooting down five or more enemy aircraft in aerial combat. Don operated a Gumman F6F Hellcat during the war, and previously collaborated on the restoration of the Fagen Fighters Museum Hellcat aircraft, one of only 17 assembled and restored existing models in the world. 

The historical narrative given by Don McPherson was followed by an engaging question and answer session with the attendees.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked Don explained “ I was about 18 years old and in the process of figuring out if I would be drafted or if I was going to join”, going on to add, “I had a brother in the Navy so there wasn't much of a decision on my part there, I knew I was going to join the Navy”. Don referenced a military advertisement he saw around this time, stating how badly the Navy needed pilots and was changing parameters that would eventually allow him to fly.  “Formerly you had to have two years of college to get into Navy flight training” said McPherson, but the program modification removed the requirement and offered accelerated training, opening doors for young men like Don to aid the war effort in their full potential.

Ron and Diane Fagen, alongside museum guests, take in the oral history detailed by speaker Don McPherson.

The 99 year old Navy Veteran served from 1942 to 1945 and was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight, while serving as a Fighter pilot in Fighter Squadron Eighty-three (VF-83), in action against enemy Japanese Forces in the Pacific ocean during World War II. Don soared the skies over Iwo Jima, the Philippines, and finally, Okinawa, finishing his war time work protecting General Douglas MacArthur's forces. 

Don McPherson flew a Grumman F6F Hellcat and collaborated on the revival of the Fagen Fighters Museum Hellcat.
Guests of all ages listened attentively to the speaker Don McPherson at Fagen Fighters Museum.

Chief Pilot for the Museum, Evan Fagen prompted McPherson with questions for the Pearl Harbor speaking event on Tuesday. After the oral presentation, the floor was opened for an interactive Q&A session between the Veteran Ace and museum guests, coffee and cookies were also served.

Ron Fagen was hands on helping the speaker Don McPherson with his water.

The museum's current hours are Thursday through Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. To plan a future museum tour or find more information on other upcoming events, visit the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum Website at www.fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org or call 320-564-6644.