The best part about traveling to smaller towns is stumbling onto something amazing. In Granit Falls, they host a World Class Museum that rivals the Smithsonians Air and Space Museum. It is the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. It comprises itself o three different hangers, each filled with different aircraft. All of which is still in working order.
The Start of Fagen Fighters WWII Museum
The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum opened in 2012, starting when the owners, Ron and Diane Fagen purchased a P-51 Mustang in 1994. A few years later, they picked up another World War II fighter and it started to grow. Because of how fast word traveled in a small town, visitors started showing up to look at the aircraft. After a visitor’s suggestion, they turned the place into a museum.
They have a big collection of Aircraft and other vehicles on display. Each has been fully restored in full working order and in pristine condition. You’ll find a B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang, P-40 Warhawk, FM-2 Wildcat, P-38 Lightning, BT-13, PT-19, PT-26, PT-22, and a CG-4A Glider.
If there is ever any doubt that the aircraft is in working order, you can tell just by seeing drip pans underneath each aircraft, the family fly’s them often. But the icing on the cake was watching the Fagen family take out a plane from the hanger, and fly it was like seeing our own personal airshow.
I asked if this was a normal thing, and they said that it was just because family is in town. So you never know when you come what’s going to happen. In previous years they have hosted official Airshows. Keep an eye out to see if any are coming up on their website.
Instead of showing off the planes all in a hanger, the family has gone a step further to make it a real museum, touching on all aspects of World War II. They acquired a rail car, and have a touching piece on the Holocaust. It is the largest exhibit of scale in the Upper Midwest. They also display artifacts and memorial about all the major conflicts, including D-Day, Battle of Britain, Battle of Midway, Battle of the Bulge and the Liberation of Paris.
Outside there is a bunker briefing room, an artillery bunker, and a period-specific tower to climb. The realism of the displays goes as far as having the actual sand from Utah Beach in France, under the Higgins boat. It is chilling to know that our soldiers could have walked right there.
“Ron went a step further, he purchased from the French government barrels of sand from Utah. Which you see in front of you in this display. That is sand that our troops tracked across, that is sand that our boys died on, that was sand that our troops bled to death on. But, they would want you to remember,” Johns said.https://www.marshallindependent.com/news/local-news/2019/06/fagen-fighters-wwii-museum-draws-a-crowd/
As you walk through the exhibits, you notice different things on display like letters that Ray Fagen sent home to his family. The metals he received along with a plaque talking about notable conflicts he served in. This is when it sinks in that this all started with one family wanting to honor what their Father, Grandfather or Great Grandfather, along with all the other men and women who served during this conflict.
How much does it cost?
The museum is free, technically, but they recommended a $10 per person donation. I can’t imagine how much money, time and effort it took to create a museum of this quality. And to be privately owned without charging admission is astounding. It was worth it ten times over.
The museum is closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s. They do open up on some holiday too. Visit their website for all the details.
Tips for Visiting this WWII Aircraft Museum
Bring a camera. I love history and have an interest in WWII. But nothing like my husband. I enjoy airshows, but if they didn’t tell me what type of aircraft it was, I never would know. But these WWII aircraft are some of the sexiest planes I’ve ever seen.
If you are bringing younger kids, keep a hold of their hands. Kids love to touch, which is how they learn. But in this case, you have to have some restraint. The museum doesn’t have ropes and other things preventing you from getting up close to the aircraft. Each of the different hangers has things for the kids, be it a playroom, or interactive TV screens. You’ll still want to keep an eye out.
Watch where you are going. In order to get as much in the hangers as possible, the aircraft are packed in. In some cases, you’ll have to go under or around wings to get around. Keep an eye out for those. This is one place you never want to text and walk. The same can be said going in between hangers. You are on an active runway, so look both ways. Chances are the only one flying is the Fagen’s, but still, be careful.
Would I go again?
I would definitely visit the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. Anyone that loves aircraft would love to go. It was 10x better than any airshow experience I’ve ever done. If you have an airplane enthusiast in your family, make sure to head out to Granite Falls.