Famous Thunderbird Air Show over Dunseith in the early 60’s
Folks, It’s been nearly two years since the last posting of this memorable event. I think it’s time for a reposting. I have posted the comments from this last posting at the bottom.
Bill Hosmer, Once again we salute you. You referred to Dick Johnson and me as giants. You are the giant of all times. I will never be able to hold a candle to you. Following your time flying for the famous Thunderbirds, you were the lead pilot for many bombing raids over North Vietnam. As portrayed in the book “The Birds Were Silver Then”, written by your friend Lowell Peterson, those were some very dangerous raids. You had many close calls that took the lives of so many of your fellow pilots. Many of them became prisoners of war too. Bill, you are my hero. Gary
—– Original Message —–
Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 7:56 PM
Folks, This deserves a re-run. Many of you have been added to our distribution list since this was run last January.
Seeing Bill Hosmer’s name, with his message yesterday, brings back a lot of memories of him and the famous Air Force Thunderbirds. As most of you know, Bill was a pilot with the Thunderbirds back in the 60’s. He, along with the Thunderbird team, performed many air shows around the world, with Dunseith being one of them.
The following was posted last January, 2008. Bill’s reply, with his side of the story, follows everyone’s story of their remembrance of that famous day, in Dunseith, when the Thunderbirds, unexpectedly, came to town. Some of the older generation thought the Russian’s were attacking.
Bill, this is one event that will never be wiped from the history of Dunseith. We are proud to have you as one of our own.
I thought I’d share with you and the Dunseith Alumni some of the memories that folks have of you and the famous Thunderbirds. I’ve attached a few messages that our class of 65 generated this last April , 2007, when our subject of discussion for the day was you and those planes performing over Dunseith. Last winter our class members had, almost live discussions, on various topics and this was one of them.
The first message I received yesterday from Ron Longie also from our class of 65. All the other messages down to Deb Morinville’s were generated last April.
Ron Longie’s (65) reply to Bill Hosmer:
I truly enjoyed reading Bill Hosmers email, the memories came flooding back about the old skating rink sitting in the warm up shed retying skates, warming hands and feet what a memory. I thank you Bill for the trip down memory lane, and I also like Bill Grimme remember the pass over of the jets what a day. Thanks again for all the names of people that I had forgotten.
Colette Hosmer’s (64) reply:
Gary and Larry,
Great memories. Actually, Bill was my cousin — my Uncle Jack
Hosmer’s oldest son. Bill and his wife, Pat, have a cabin at Lake
Metigoshe and have spent the summers there for years now. Bill still
tells great stories about those days. One was that Uncle Jack had to
walk down to Casey Sine’s store the next morning to offer an apology.
Casey got skinned up when he “hit the asphalt” as the jets thundered
down main street at the end of their performance.
Larry – I also like the idea of the arched street lights.
On 4/23/07, Gary Stokeswrote:
Larry, Again you are a wonderful writer and story teller.Colette, I think your Uncle Bill Hosmer was part of these Thunderbird shows
that Larry is talking about.
Wonderful story from Larry Hackman (66)
Gary & Bill (Grimme) & Paul
Did you read about the Blue Angle pilot crashing yesterday and getting
killed at a flight demonstration. That brought back a memory when the
Thunderbirds would come and fly over Dunseith. They would fly over and do a
few maneuvers usually about once a summer or when ever they were in the
area. I remember they would come right down main street what seemed as low
as tree top high. The street lights would start rattling and the next thing
that happened was there was five jets following each other right down main
street. It really made you stop what ever you were doing and pay
attention. If I remember correctly is that they would even break the
berrier a few times just to make sure that everyone would come out of their
houses to watch the show. That was still legal in them days,(You know, way
back when). Mostly I think it was to get the Hosmer families
attention. Colette’s uncle was one of the pilots if I remember correctly.
Then for the closing of their demonstration they would come flying down main
from the north end of town. They would come so low and so fast that the top
of street light poles would be sucked in and touch, creating arches from one
end of main to the other end. They would have to have the fire dept. go out
the next day with the ladder truck to streighten the poles back out. I
always thought the town would have looked better with the arches, and
really would have looked good at Christmas. You know with the arches
decorated with Christmas lights and such. It really would have created a
amazing sight in the dark of night. If you can emagine. You know, that is a
helluva idea for the street dance during the reunion. You can just emagine
everyone doing the snake dance (or is that crack the whip) down main under
the arches. Maybe someone ought to pass that idea onto someone. But I
think Colette’s uncle retired. Its really to bad about that Blue Angel
Pilot. We must all say a prayer for the well being of his family.
You all take care and smile,
Allen Richard’s (65)Reply:
Bill Hosmer, one of Jack Hosmer’s older sons was a pilot with the Air Force Thunderbirds in the 60’s. They were performing at the Minot Air Base and did an impromptu short show above Dunseith Min street. I was mowing hay in a road ditch along Highway 3– Getting buzzed by an F-100 (yeah that is what they flew back then) at 500 mph is a true religious experience.
By the way, after Bill Hosmer left the he did some test pilot work and demonstrations for Cessna–Great guy and fun to talk with. Last I saw him he was living @Lake Metigoshe God — been gone so long I forgot how to spell it! Anyway Collette or Jess might know his whereabouts.
Bill Grimme’s (65) reply:
Great stuff! The Thunderbirds were a big part of our younger days. I
remember hearing rumors that there might be a flyover (I’m sure an official
announcement would not have been allowed). Seems like it always corresponded
with some event at Minot AFB. We would wait in anticipation on the day and
still be surprised when the Thunderbirds made the first pass. Cakes fell,
kids and adults ran outside, Brownie cameras were pointed to the sky (doubt
that the pictures turned out) and, as Colette has shared, Dunseith citizens
skinning their knees when they hit the deck. What a day!
Here is a good link to the Thunderbird history. Colette’s cousin is
prominent in the article. http://www.usafthunderbirds.com/history.html
Colette Hosmer’s (64) reply:
I replied to the Thunderbird story before I read your e-mail.
So….one real live account of a “man” actually hitting the deck.
Another one was Jimmy McKoy. He was up on the roof of the Crystal
Cafe to get a better view of the show. He swore, that when the planes
came down main street, if he wouldn’t have flattened out he would have been hit!
Susan Fassett’s (65) reply:
The story I remember is that a lot of the older folks in town thought we were being attacked by the Russians when the planes came flying so low over the town. I remember standing in the alley behind our house and you could see the pilots in the planes very clearly, as low as they were. It was a real treat for us small town kids. Susan
Message from Deb Morinville Marmon (70):
Merry Christmas!! Are you overwhelmed yet? My goodness, this list is taking on a life of it’s own!
My mom, Frances Morinville used to tell this story of the day the “Thunderbirds” came to town (pretty much unannounced)
Back in those days the big threat to the USA was the USSR. Everyone talked about the “communists”. Mom and Dad talked about them so much I came to think I could identify one if they walked down the street kind of like a Martian or other alien. Anyway, Mom said that one of the jets came really low right over main street. The door opened at the store and an elderly woman came in, white as a sheet. Mom got her sat down in the chair by the window and after she could catch her breath she said “I think the communists are attacking!” Mom told that story for years, she got such a kick out of it. I also remember forming a caravan to the Minot Air Base to watch the air show. It was one of the thrills of my childhood years. Thanks Bill, for the joy of those days and also for your service to our country.
Merry Christmas to all my old “homies”
Deb Morinville Marmon
Bill Hosmer’s comments & Reply: Thunderbirds
Gary Stokes, Ron Longie, Cousin Colette Hosmer, Larry Hackman, Allen
Richard, Bill Grimme and to Deb Morinville (whose address I did not
Thank you for taking the time to comment on that brief period of
time in a long life. The flattery I’m experiencing is a gift from
you all, and that is important to me. By the way I answered a
direct mailing from Susan Fassett, so she was not included in this
series of observations and impressions response.
Just to clarify a couple of impressions, we did not do any
supersonic maneuvers. The explosive sound that was heard was in all
likelihood, the afterburner which is a loud and sudden explosive
acceleration which that engine incorporated. The solo pilots used
it more than us working guys in the formation, although it’s
possible anytime. On one of the South American shows we did in 1961
the President of Paraguay asked our lead to do a supersonic pass.
He explained that the shock wave might possibly break many windows
in the air terminal. The president said, “This is my country, and
those are my windows”. So the leader had the solo to open the show
with a boom. No windows were broken, but they had alot of tape
helping to withstand the shock.
What caused KC Sine to fall was not in the plan, but it happened
like this: As lead headed us toward Minot, I asked him permission
to do a slow pass down main street. I wanted to see if my folks
were at our store on main street. I was low and very slow with my
landing gear down. Unknown to me the other wing man pulled out of
the formation, got behind me a good distance then lit the
afterburner, accelerated to nearly 500knots, flew UNDER me as we
passed the bank on the corner. KC explained to me when Dad and I
went to apologize, he had that masterful fast paced dialogue with a
little swearing going on, telling me, that fast one was going to
kill him right in front of his store,etc, etc, then he ended his
tirade, he said, “hey kid, wanna banana?” I’d heard that many
years before that Sept day in 1961. What a piece of work that man
There are Thunderbird reunions every other year in Las Vegas where
we get together with us oldtimers, and all the teams before and
after us, and are treated to a private air show by the current
team in their beautiful F-16 aircraft at Nellis AFB. This year it
was last month. The number of attendees from our earlier teams are
less and less, but it is like being in Dunseith at our famous
100th and125th Celebrations to see all the generations in
attendance, to give the heart a tug, and the mind a blast of
I did eject from the airplane I flew to ND about two weeks after
we had been there. It was not at a show, but during our arrival
maneuvers at a Navy Base in Rhode Island, I had the engine quit
running, tried some emergency airstarts, tried to position the
bird to make a dead stick (engine out) pattern, but was too low,
so ejected without injury, and flew the spare airplane in the show
the next day. The other one exploded in an empty field with no
damage to anything on the ground, except the dirt. I landed in a
tree and I was not as good a tree climber as I was down at Willow
Creek, but shoot.
I’m hoping someone can figure out the best way to get us in
computer contact on a regular basis. I can contribute $$, but my
brain power is limited.
Cheers and Happy New Year to you all, and thank you from my
heart. Bill Hosmer
Colette Hosmer’s (64) comments and reply:
Bill, I began this e-mail (below) this morning but had to leave for an appointment so saved it to send later. I just got back and read the Thunderbird account from your point of view. Guess we’re working on mental telepathy now….
Hi Gary and Cousin Bill,
Loved reading your Christmas Day letter, Bill. So many people exchanged their memories of your Dunseith Thunderbird Show….maybe someday you’ll tell us your side of the story (?)
Although I don’t know anything about building or maintaining a website (I traded art and paid a professional for mine) I will add my 2 cents to the equation. I agree with Gary that we should stick with e-mail for our initial communication — especially since he’s so generous in acting as the clearing house for these thousands of messages. However, I would imagine that information could be organized very effectively on a website. And, photographs would be an important addition to the history.
I also agree that if this effort is made, it should be top rate, easy to maneuver and with plenty of room to add info indefinitely.
Larry Hackman’s (66) message to Bill Hosmer:
Just to let you know and to pump up your pumper more, I want to let you
know that I have related the story of the Thunderbirds buzzing small town,
USA, Dunseith, ND many times over the years. That one short moment in
time has meant a lot and apparently not only to me. We did not have much
growing up in Dunseith but we did have a pilot that flew with the
Thunderbirds, Not many towns can make that claim. New Rockford, ND. is
real proud to have a astronaut, but I’ll bet he never buzzed main street
and created the memories that you have for all of us. Thank you. Now if I
can figure out a way to get Gary to stop confusing me with Carmen Myer and
Santa Claus I’ll be doing great. By the way, I think I did meet you and
visit with you for a short time at the Althea Theatre (Senior Citizen
Center) at the Dunseith Reunion. Did you say you were living or staying in
a cabin up at Long Lake or am I confused. Bill, you have a great day and
thank you again, for the memory.
Replies to the above posting
Previoulsy posted with message 292 on 11/23/2008
Reply from Bill Hosmer (47):
Gary, and my Dunseith Friends, I am overcome with your comments from the past. My ego has been fed enough to last for the rest of my life. All of you have demonstrated that tremendous Dunseith generosity and support. Anything I accomplished in my past was due to a certain spirit and tons of encouragement by the likes of you, your parents, and grandparents experienced during my terrific days as a Dunseith guy. Blessings and Cheers to you with gratitude and affection. Bill Hosmer
This is a great re-run! Brought back all the memories of the fun and pride Bill Hosmer and his team brought to Dunseith.
Those were good times. Plenty left ahead with your daily emails, too.
Last year’s reunion and these daily emails have really kept a spark going. I know when I went back to Dunseith last September, it was almost as good a trip as the reunion the year before. I’m really looking forward to the cruise. I think it is shaping up nicely.
Cold here in Birmingham tonight – should have a low of about 27. It got down to 24 last night. I know that doesn’t get the attention of the folks in Dunseith, but, down here, people start getting excited in the 20’s. Folks sell firewood out of pickup trucks on a lot of corners. We do get the single digits occasionally, but not often. A little snow now and then, too. In 1993, I had 18″ on the level in my yard. Drifts up to 2 or 3 feet. Shut the town down for 4 or 5 days. No snow removal equipment and a lot of hills here. My wife had me shoveling a square IN THE BACK YARD!!! We had three small dogs and they needed a little help for the necessities. The poor little guys would come in with snowballs hanging on their bellies. It would take about a half hour to get them all melted.
Looks like we’ll get a little warmup by Turkey day.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Thanks, Gary, for gathering together these “Thunderbird” accounts. Bill has always been a great source of pride to the family and I am especially proud as I have the honor of being his favorite cousin. (Just kidding, I assume several of his other cousins are reading this and I take great pleasure in putting him on the spot). Colette
Reply (Thunderbirds) from Neola Kofoid Garbe:
Great newsletter, Gary. I enjoyed it as much/maybe more than I did the first time it was sent. You do a great job of organizing the info for your newsletter. I remember KC; I bought several neat pairs of earrings from him in about 1954. The story about him is precious.
Reply from Diane Larson Sjol (70):
Do any of you remember what year it was that Bill over
Dunseith…seems we lived there then. I think my dad was in Germany
at the time and we lived in the old Art Rude house across the street
from the school. I remember being a little scared and excited at the
same time when I heard those jets and told everyone, “That was my
cousin Bill Hosmer!” We aren’t actually cousins but since my mother
and Lee Hosmer were sisters and I am a first cousin to the Hosmer
girls, Bill’s folks were always “Uncle Jack and Aunt Inie” so Bill was
always my cousin and still is! It was a very proud moment for me and
I have told the story many many times. By the way, a fellow
Thunderbird pilot of Bill’s makes and sells the most wonderful
hotsauce. Bill introduced it to Nancy (Hosmer) Baldwin and she
introduced it to me….I order it by the case. Col. Cooper as he is
known, is quite a character and will answer any email you send
him…..if anyone is interested, it is calle Mile High Hot Sauce…the
website is www.milehighhotsauce.com. One other thing….for those of
you who are interested in reading a very fine book of essays and
stories of the Vietnam Air War edited by Lowell Peterson entitled “The
Birds Were Silver Then” the book is composed of first hand interviews
and stories by the pilots themselves and Bill Hosmer is featured
throughout the book as well as on the back cover. We all know what a
descriptive and eloquent writer he is so it’s great to be given
another opportunity to “hear” his stories. I begged him for a copy of
this book and he was kind enough to give me a signed copy. I
recommend it highly….Diane Larson Sjol