PENDLETON — The Pendleton Round-Up’s military appreciation day at Saturday’s rodeo will open with a show unlike any other in the stadium’s recent history.
After a special presentation of the colors and prior to the Round-Up court’s grand entry, a B-25 bomber paying tribute to veterans past and present will fly over the stadium to commence the rodeo.
“What a fitting way to celebrate Pendleton’s history while honoring our veterans,” Round-Up President Dave O’Neill said.
While there have been flyovers at the Round-Up’s military day in the past, O’Neill said this is the first time he knows of one being done by a B-25 bomber. With Saturday’s bomber originating from Madras, it will be returning to the Pendleton area that is deeply connected to the B-25’s own history.
The bomber itself was developed and first flew in 1940 before being officially introduced into the U.S. military in 1941. After opening earlier that very same year, the Pendleton Field welcomed the 17th Bombardment Group in June and began training thousands of enlisted soldiers how to fly and man the new bomber while conducting anti-submarine patrols along the Pacific Coast.
Once the U.S. entered World War II following the attacks at Pearl Harbor, the 17th Bombardment transferred to South Carolina for preparations of a counterattack shortly after.
And then in April of 1942, James H. Doolittle and members of the 17th Bombardment known as “the Doolittle Raiders” launched a raid from the USS Hornet in the Pacific Ocean and bombed Tokyo, Japan. The attack killed an estimated 50 Japanese soldiers and citizens along with injuring 400 more. Three Americans were killed in the initial raid and another four died as prisoners in Japan.
The Doolittle raid was the first attack on the Japanese mainland and is considered a significant victory in American morale at the war’s onset. And now with Saturday’s presentation, Pendleton will commemorate its own roots as the first training grounds for the iconic raid.
“It’s really important to us and is going to be really cool to celebrate that local history,” O’Neill said.
Saturday will also be the literal return of this same B-25 bomber owned by the Erickson Aircraft Collection based in Madras. In June, the B-25 appeared at Pendleton Bike Week’s “Ride with the Raiders,” which also honored the area’s connection to the war and B-25s.
Michelle Forster, assistant manager of Erickson Aircraft Collection, said the collection includes 27 total planes, 25 of which can fly. Founded by Jack Erickson in 1983 and originally based out of Tillamook, the collection now provides planes for roughly 30 air shows per year.
Forster said many of the shows are planned in the Pacific Northwest or Canada, though recently they are reaching further east and have gone as far as Michigan already this year.
But this Saturday the B-25 has just one place to be, albeit on a tight schedule.
“It’s going to be there at 13:15 and it has to be exact,” Forster said, laughing.