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World War II Hero from Minnesota being honored in France

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Wadena, MN (WDAY TV) - A family from our region is preparing for a memorable trip to the Champagne region of France, where a fallen World War II Hero from Minnesota will be remembered with ceremony and thanks.

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It all stems from a fascinating book a Wadena, Minnesota man has authored, after years of interviews and research.

Rare footage of the pilot and the story of Major Don Beerbower and his "Bonnie B.”

Don Beerbower was one of those boys who enlisted after hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“He was just a normal Minnesota kid, working at his Dad's creamery.”

He would go on to fly a P-51 Mustang in the European Theatre, and would leave a legacy still talked about today.

Paul Sailer/Author: “He died in 1944, so he is one of America's major pilots but he was forgotten because he died.”

Paul Sailer of Wadena, whose father grew up with Beerbower spent 12-years researching, interviewing and writing an incredible book about the pilot.

Paul: “And who would know he would have this tremendous skill flying this P-51 Mustang, he was courageous aggressive and quite a leader.”

The flying ace would lead the 9th victories. But during a flying mission in France, August of 1944, Beerbower was destroying 30 German Aircraft on an airfield when he was shot down near the village of Saint-Thierry.

Paul: “My father said he was a real hero and in world war two terms that was someone who died fighting.”

But now the village of Saint-Thierry, France will next week honor Beerbower for his heroism. The pilot who lost his life in this French village will be remembered. Sailer and his some of his family, including Dave and Mary Morinvillle will be there to see French and American officials to mark a special memorial at a centuries old church.

Paul: “I just think people who live lives of duty and courage need to be remembered, we appreciate those stories and people like that it is good for our society to remember.”

The book is titled-The Oranges are Sweet- code for the 51 Pilots that the weather was good. Landing was a go. It took 460-pages to remember Beerbower. A book about a young man lost at 22 in war with heroes galore.

By the way, that rare film of Beerbower was taken near Normandy in 1944, just 5-weeks before he died.

The book, "Oranges Are Sweet" is available at the Fargo Air Museum and on Amazon.

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Kevin Wallevand
Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.
(701) 241-5317
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