Just south of Granite Falls on Hwy 23, you’ll find the Granite Falls Municipal Airport and another Destination 320: Fagen Fighters WWII Museum. For the purpose of the article, we’re not going to go into all the history. We will say, that if you are a history buff, or even remotely WWII curious, this is likely one of the most amazing destinations within the 320. The reasons? Three key things make this place remarkable:
1) It’s The Largest in Minnesota.
2) Its Close Up and Personal
3) It’s a Working Museum with Restoration Shop.
The Largest WWII Museum in Minnesota
At the time of this writing, there were four hangers and a repair bay that make up the museum. These include the training bay, a bomber bay, the fighter bay and the planning room/air tower. Be aware however, that they are building a 5th hanger that will be worth a look when it’s completed.
When we say that the collection is the largest, know that mean extensive. It’s designed to look like a World War II Airport. You walk from building to building to see planes, vehicles, displays and even a train box car that depicts the holocaust. There are 16 aircraft with more on the way and a dozen ground vehicles.
They have put time, energy, money and effort into building this collection. Including adding several surprises. For example: In the fighter hanger, there’s a duck boat sitting on sand with men loading out onto “Utah Beach.” The sand under their feet was imported from Utah Beach in France. Yes. That Utah Beach.
It’s Close Up
The tour of these four buildings are self guided. You can walk in and among the aircraft, tanks, support vehicles and equipment. Most museums allow you to see a display only from several feet away. The Fagen Fighters WWII Museum isn’t like that. You can walk directly up to the aircraft. Do know that every display has a sign “Please Don’t touch or climb on the display” and you can tell that people have been respectful of that request. The displays are in immaculate condition and every inch of every hanger is so clean you could invite your mother in law to do a white glove test. But know that she isn’t allowed to touch the vehicles either, even with white gloves.
This close up view of jeeps, trucks, tanks and airplanes will allow you to see the controls, the markings and the cockpits with such incredible clarity that you can picture yourself in the drivers seat. Several of the planes (Like the Bomber and a Glider) have ladders that allow you to see directly inside the plane. Just to be clear, you aren’t allowed inside the planes or vehicles. This is look but no touch. Trust us, this close up view is more than enough to satisfy.
It’s a Working Museum
Fagen Restoration occupies a half of the main hanger (the training hanger.) Inside this shop, Fagen Restoration rebuilds these WWII planes to working order. You can tell from plans that are laid out on open surfaces in the shop that they are having to re-manufacture many of the parts. It isn’t enough that these machines “look good.” Each plane is a working, flying, rebuilt airplane from WWII. The history of each plane is included as part of the display. This is a real opportunity to discover the individual identities of each aircraft, offering information like: Who flew the plane and how successful the pilot was.
Additionally, some of the the aircraft are so incredibly rare that you will likely never see another one. For example, the restoration crew is working on a Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver. When finished the plane will be one of only two flying Helldivers in existence. The other Flying Helldiver is found at Commemorative Air Force (Cactus Squadron) in Graham, Texas. In addition, Fagen Restoration is working on a Japanese Zero. Now in it’s final stages, you can see it in the restoration bay.
To see these planes in flight you may want to plan your trip. There are several occasions during the year that the planes come out of the hanger and the public can see them get off the ground. One of the planes, a trainer, is available for rides on rare occasions. You’ll want to coordinate your calendar with one of these dates. The next is coming up on September 24th, 2022. More details here.
So that you fully understand how committed these folks are to having a working museum here’s a current list:
Two – P-51 Mustangs
Two – P40 Warhawks
One – P-38J
One – FM2 Wildcat
A B-25 Bomber
And these are just the fighting machines. There another 9 training aircraft, 2 gliders and a host of ground vehicles including a Sherman Tank.
A Few Photos
A few things to know
This Destination 320: Fagen Fighters WWII Museum is a walking tour. There are no stairs to worry about, but the hangers are a distance apart. You will be walking and it’s on concrete. As a precaution, you may want to wear comfortable shoes. There are clean modern bathrooms in the hangers. In fact, everything about the entire museum is clean. There is a constant presence of personnel making sure the aircraft and hangers are spotless.
The museum does play host to special events. Some events are coordinated by the museum, other events like class reunions, private tours and community education are planned by others and the museum plays as host.
Hours and admission
Children, ages 9 and under – free
Children, ages 10 – 17 – $5
Adults – $10
Family – $20
Active Military – $5
Annual Membership (2022)
Single Membership – $50
Family Membership – $100
Hours: 10AM – 4 PM Tues – Sat Closed Sundays, Mondays, and National Holidays.
Where: Fagen Fighters WWII Museum at 2450 540th St, Granite Falls, MN 56241
Phone: 320 564-6644