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Dakota Datebook

Rudy Froeschle and the Hazen Bomber

When Rudy Froeschle of Hazen, North Dakota, mustered out of the service after World War II, he picked up some pamphlets.  Rudy found out you could buy a surplus B-17 bomber for 350 dollars.  Froeschle had piloted B-17s during the war and thought it would be great to get one.  Rudy couldn’t buy one himself, but when he got back to his hometown of Hazen, he talked the school board into buying one for “educational purposes” and offered to fly it in for them.   The school ordered a bomber.

It took a little longer than expected for the paperwork to come together, and at the time of delivery, Rudy was in Chicago starting medical school. So, another pilot had to be hired to fly in the four-engine airplane.  The bomber was picked up in Altus, Oklahoma and flown to Dickinson. The next day it was flown to Hazen with much fanfare as the whole town turned out to see the arrival. The plane landed in a field south of town, but the tires sunk in the sod and the plane tipped up on its nose, bending the prop tips on the number 2 engine.  A bunch of the high school boys pulled bomber’s tail back to the ground.

The plane sat in that field for several years, with people crawling through it and scavenging parts.  It’s not known if it ever did get used for educational purposes.

In 1951 several men came and started working on the plane.  They took the number two propeller to the town blacksmith to bend it back in shape again.  One winter morning they turned the bomber into the wind, and with no one there to witness it, flew away from Hazen.

For a time, the B-17 did duty as a photo survey plane in Canada. Next, it was a fire bomber in South Dakota and New Mexico.  After that it was displayed at the Pima Air Museum and then at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

In 2011 it was donated to the Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia, and completely restored.  It is now on display as the much-noted B-17 called the “City of Savannah.”  It’s the center piece of the museum and considered the finest B-17 static display in the world.

Rudy Froeschle, who started the journey for this now famous plane, passed away on this date in 2012.

Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson

Sources: 

B-17 to Hazen, Dakota Territory Air Museum Newsletter, Winter 2017-2018
warbirdregisty.org B-17 44-83814
Book, B-17 Flying Fortress Restoration --- The Story of a WWII Bombers return to Glory in Honor of the Veterans of the Mighty Eighth Air Force by Jerome McLaughlin

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