MIDLAND, Texas — Dave Swenson was never in combat during World War II, but he trained in flying AT-11 bombers leadigm up to the end of the war-the very one that now sits in the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Midland
The museum is home to dozens of military grade planes from the World War Two era. The aircraft date back to the 1940s and the stories shared by pilots who flew those planes transcend time.
Dave Swenson has called Midland home for decades, but his story starts many miles north. He was born in 1924 in Kandiyohi, Minnesota to first generation Swedish parents.
One of four boys, he grew up in a farm and a world recovering from the World War I, just before going into the Great Depression.
“I was just in a constant struggle for everyone in the country," Swenson said. "From food rationing, tire rationing, gas rationing all of those things, everything was short."
In 1942, while at Adolphus College in St. Paul, Swenson signed up for the Army Corps Reserve. One year later, he got a call that would change his life.
“In 1943, on my birthday February 21st, they called me in," Swenson said.
So I reported to basic training on my birthday.”
A year later, at the ripe age of 20, Swenson got his wings and was sent to Big Spring where he would learn how to fly AT-11 bombers.
“I was not a very tall person and it took long legs to fly the AT-11 because it had tow brakes," Swenson said. "So my instructor told me to get some cushions and I put them behind me and I used them for the rest of my flying career.”
As Swenson was in his last phase of training, victory over Japan took place and World War II was over.
“I was just a country boy from Minnesota and to really get mixed in with all these different people and be able to do it, and finish in good shape is a very satisfying accomplishment," Swenson said.
His name is now a part of the plane he flew, sitting beneath the pilot’s window and will soon fly high as the plane is restored to flying condition.
“It really did bring back things that I hadn’t thought of in a long time," Swenson said. "It's things that a person might have forgotten in 70 something years."
The High Sky Wing of the Commemorative Air Force anticipates the AT-11 to be restored by the end of the year in time for the 2019 Christmas Light Flights.