If you have a passion for aviation, and you have money, there's no end to what you can accomplish, even if your desire is to build a first-class aviation museum and fill it with World War II aircraft and artifacts. That's what entrepreneur Ron Fagen did in his hometown of Granite Falls, Minnesota. There, on the grounds of the Granite Falls Municipal Airport, Fagen established the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum. The museum boasts an impressive collection housed inside two hangars, each of which is outfitted with Schweiss Liftstrap Bifold Doors from Fairfax, MN-based Schweiss Doors.
The history of the Fagen Fighters World War II Museum dates back to 1974 when Ron Fagen returned to his native Minnesota after a stint in Vietnam. Having learned construction in the army, he started a construction business with a single truck and a four-man crew.
Over the years, Fagen Inc. and an affiliated company, Fagen Engineering, both grew. Along the way, the firms developed a specialization for heavy industrial projects and expertise in the construction of ethanol plants. Combined, Fagen Inc. and Fagen Engineering employ approximately 2,500 people at locations in several states, including 300 in Granite Falls.
The Fagen Fighters World War II museum was built as a tribute to Ron's father, Raymond, a World War II vet who participated in the D-day invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. A life-sized bronze sculpture in the main hangar re-creates the moment a group of United States Army G.I.s exited a landing craft as it hit the beach in Normandy. Raymond Fagen is depicted as the lead soldier. The sand used for the display is authentic Normandy beach sand.
The museum's main hangar is a 90' x 200' barrel-vaulted, brick-faced structure with a 28' eave. Mounted across its front is a 70'-wide Schweiss Liftstrap Bifold Door weighing 22,000 lbs. The door is powered by three 5 hp electric motors and raised with the help of 20 Schweiss lift straps. Clad with steel sheeting, the door—like the hangar itself—is designed to withstand 190-mph winds.
The collection of aircraft on display inside the main building is astounding and includes a P-51 Mustang, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a P-40 Flying Tiger and a BT-13 trainer. This same hangar houses General Omar Bradley's D-Day Willy's Jeep, a Harley Davidson WLA Escort Motorcycle, and a D-Day Veteran WC-54 Dodge Ambulance. Upstairs is a library with books, photos, posters, WWII newspaper stories and other literature about World War II.
Another unique attraction in the main hangar is a huge mural by Nebraska artist Dave Reiser depicting the Allied invasion.
A smaller gallery hangar features a Waco CG4A combat glider, built in Minnesota and used by U.S. Army personnel to quietly cross the English Channel during nighttime missions. This gallery also houses reconstructed Army training aircraft, including a PT-19, PT-22 and PT-26. There is also an anti-aircraft halftrack, a CCKWX troop carrier (better known as a Deuce-and-a-half truck), and a Cushman Model 32 Scooter.
To say Fagen is pleased with the Schweiss door that protects his amazing collection would be an understatement. "The first hangar door I ever bought was a Schweiss door, and it will also be the last door I ever buy," he asserts.
In addition to the two hangars, the museum complex boasts a WWII Quonset Hut flight operations center and a 48'-tall WWII control tower.
To see more on this project on the Schweiss Doors website, click here.
For more information on the museum, visit www.fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org.