An aircraft that helped defeat Nazi Germany during World War II landed in Missoula on Monday morning as part of a nationwide tour.

The ‘Maid in the Shade’ B-25 bomber was piloted by Gene Adkins who was accompanied by 12 crew members who had just flown in from a stop in Bozeman.

Adkins provided a brief history of the iconic aircraft.

“This airplane is a combat veteran,” said Adkins. “It's a World War II veteran. It flew 15 missions out of Corsica which is an island off of Italy and France and then flew into Italy and Yugoslavia bombing railroad yards and bridges, that sort of thing and then came back to the United States and performed a variety of functions.”

Adkins said after the war, many of the B-25’s were melted for scrap or sold.

It's a World War II veteran. It flew 15 missions out of Corsica which is an island off of Italy and France and then flew into Italy and Yugoslavia bombing railroad yards and bridges.

“In 1959, the Air Force sold it for salvage,” he said. “Fortunately, somebody in Dothan, Alabama needed an airplane to spray bugs with in the south, which was pretty common. These airplanes were available and they were cheap. So it sprayed insects in the south for 10 years. When we obtained the aircraft it went through a 27 year restoration. There was a lot of corrosion in the back from all the insecticide. It took a while to get it going, and it's been out flying now for 11 years.”

Adkins said the ‘Maid in the Shade’ even has a connection to Missoula’s own David Thatcher, our ‘Doolittle Raider’, who was a crew member aboard ‘The Ruptured Duck’, a B-25B that took off from an aircraft carrier to bomb Japan not long after Pearl Harbor.

“Our first years out we were had a lot of WW II veterans, but there are fewer of them anymore than there used to be. But we do have kids, grand kids, nieces and nephews of veterans. “When we were in Bismarck, North Dakota a month ago Becky Thatcher who is David Thatcher’s daughter got a ride with us, and when we were in Bozeman last week, one of his great grandsons was a Civil Air Patrol cadet and was out there and we got him on a ride.”

Bryan Douglass, one of the pilots of the C-47 'Miss Montana' was surprised to see how much smaller the B-25 bomber was  than the 'Miss Montana', which was used as a smokejumper aircraft and a cargo plane after World War II.

The ‘Maid in the Shade’ will be at the Museum of Mountain Flying through September 7. Click here for rates.

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