Dakota Datebook

Short Field Landing

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

 

Edgar Allen was born in Kansas and flew as a bomber pilot during World War 2.  When the war ended, he stayed in the Army Air Force and was assigned to the 6th Ferry Group in Long Beach California.  Allen spent his time flying various planes around the country, mostly surplus aircraft being disposed of by the Air Force.

On July 4, 1946, Allen received orders to fly a surplus B-24, a four engine heavy bomber, to Dickinson, ND, to be delivered to George Koppinger from New England.  Allen, his copilot and flight engineer flew the bomber to Spokane and decided to fly to Dickinson the next day, reasoning that Mr. Koppinger might be hard to contact on the Fourth of July.

On the 5th, they flew to Dickinson, and Allen telephoned Mr. Koppinger. Mr. Koppinger exploded and shouted angrily, “Where were you yesterday when I needed you!?”  Unknown to Allen, the B-24 was to be delivered specifically on July 4, as the main attraction for an air show.

Mr. Koppinger was upset and not the least bit interested in signing for the bomber.  This put Allen in a bind. He would have to face telling his home base that he was unable to deliver the aircraft.

It was finally agreed that if Allen delivered the plane directly to the town of New England, about 30 miles south of Dickinson, Koppinger would sign for it.  Allen and his crew flew to New England and found the landing strip was nothing more than a wheat field 2500 feet long.  Allen was used to landing on runways 7 to 10 thousand feet long!

Allen approached as slow and low as possible and touched down, kicking up clouds of dust as he applied the brakes.  At the last moment before reaching the end of the field, Allan released the left break and powered up both left engines, making a careening turn to the right and continuing around until stopped.

Mr. Koppinger came up and Allen said, “Well here is your White Elephant.”

“What do you mean?” Koppinger asked.

Allen said, “This plane will be here forever. You will never be able to fly it out.”

The B-24 sat many years in that field north of New England. George Koppinger built a bar/restaurant next to it and called it the “Bomber Club.”

Edgar Allen passed away on this date in 2008.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Scott Nelson

Sources: Copy of a letter from Ed Allen to Koppinger’s son, Leo, April 28, 1996.  Phone interview with Koppinger’s daughter, Wendy Louck.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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