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In time for Pearl Harbor's 76th anniversary, museum adds WWII fighter plane to collection

A World War II fighter plane called the Avenger joins the collection at Honolulu’s Pacific Aviation Museum this week.

The prototype of the torpedo-carrying plane was unveiled at a Grumman Aircraft factory on Long Island, N.Y., on Dec. 7, 1941, the same day as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

America’s ensuing declaration of war accelerated flight testing, and, within a month, the plane was in production. Fittingly, the U.S. Navy called it the Avenger.

The 76th commemoration of the attack will be marked 7:50 a.m. Thursday, at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Activities include music by the Pacific Fleet Band, wreath presentations, a rifle salute, a vintage aircraft flyover and playing of taps to honor the more than 2,300 service members and civilians killed.

In addition, Honolulu’s Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade at 6 p.m. Thursday will feature a decorated Cobra helicopter from the museum.

Avengers
Two Avengers, fighter planes that took off from aircraft carriers, are seen in this undated photo from World War II. U.S. Navy

But back to the newly arrived Avenger.

“She was the largest and heaviest single-engine aircraft built at that time,” Kenneth DeHoff, the museum’s operations director, said in a prepared statement. “But her size didn’t affect her mobility. Pilots said she flew like a fighter and had the ability to sink battleships and keep flying.”

The planes remained in military service until the 1960s.

Pacific Aviation Museum
One of fewer than 80 remaining Avengers was unloaded from a container at the Port of Honolulu on Saturday. Pacific Aviation Museum

Fewer than 80 Avengers still exist. One arrived in Honolulu last Saturday following a journey from its previous home in British Colombia, Canada.

The plane, in need of repairs and restoration, was moved to the restoration shop at the Pearl Harbor museum. Located on Ford Island, the museum is located amid historic airfields and hangars that were attacked by Japanese planes as they raced toward the U.S. ships anchored nearby.

U.S. Navy
A World War II fighter pilot poses for a mid-air photo in the cockpit of a Grumman Avenger, a plane that was first unveiled the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. U.S. Navy

Once fully restored, the Avenger will be dedicated to President George H.W. Bush, an aviator who piloted Avengers with the Navy’s Third and Fifth fleets during World War II.

Boeing Stearman
The Boeing Stearman training plane in which George H.W. Bush learned to fly is displayed at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Pacific Aviation Museum

The Boeing Stearman in which Bush trained is part of the museum’s collection.

A visit to the restoration shop to view the Avenger and other planes is included in guided tours, which cost $35 for adults and $12 for children 4 to 12 years old.

General admission costs $25 for adults and $12 for kids. Booking online can save up to 20% over prices at the door.

Rates are lower for people who were born and still live in Hawaii and for members of the military and their children.

The museum is open daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Info: Pacific Aviation Museum, Ford Island, 319 Lexington Blvd., Honolulu; (808) 441-1000

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