BY MELANIE BUCK –
Crider Aircraft Painting has planes come and go on a daily basis, but it’s not often they get aircraft with such a rich history behind it. Such is the case with one of their most recent clients. It is the duty and responsibility of the Commemorative Airforce to maintain a special aircraft, and for 18 years, they have chosen Crider’s as the place to keep the bomber looking its best.
The Commemorative Airforce is the largest flying museum in the United States, with 68 units across the country, and headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
Beth Jenkins, a pilot of this particular B-25 Bomber, said she began working with Crider’s when it was still Goodner’s in 1998 and has stuck with them since. That’s how the VMB 612 USMC B-25 came to Mena for new paint.
Jenkins explained that it is not well-known that Marines also have aviation and they used their skills in World War II in the Pacific. The ‘USMC Devil Dog’ plane that is receiving a new paint job, is a commemorative plane of the #3 unit that was actually used in combat in WWII. Pictures of missiles and sunken ships line the side of the plane, recognizing each successful bombing mission the #3 unit took during the course of its war days.
“B-25’s would go into the Pacific and down ships that were carrying supplies for the Japanese. Unit #3 never came back,” said Jenkins. She went on to explain that a man from the Marine Corps Unit, VMB 612, made it back from the mission when #3 did not. He knew the men on the plane and wanted to honor them. That’s when the idea for the Devil Dog commemorative plane came along. More than 60 people own the plane now as part of the Commemorative Airforce and the Devil Dog spends its days now educating people about Marine aviation in World War II and flying in airshows around the country.
“Our job is to keep it flying,” said Jenkins. Over the last six years, the group has spent more than $250,000 doing just that.