FARGO – Nearly 60 years ago, Alexander MacDonald returned to Fargo after a tour of duty during the Korean War and piloted the P-51 Mustang, the first fighter plane to fly under the umbrella of the newly formed North Dakota Air National Guard.
Today, he’ll watch with sadness as the lone airplane remaining at the 119th Wing’s Fargo base takes off and disappears into the midday sky, leaving the “Happy Hooligans” without a manned flying mission for the first time in their distinguished 66-year history.
“It just almost seems incomprehensible that it could happen,” said MacDonald, who went on to fly more than 10,000 hours in the unit’s various fighters over the years.
“Taking the best unit in the Air National Guard and saying, ‘No, you can’t fly airplanes anymore,’ is like taking Muhammad Ali after his first win and saying, ‘No ,you can’t fight anymore,’ ” he said.
Since February 1947, a month after the Air National Guard was established in North Dakota, the Happy Hooligans have always had an active flying mission.
Today, North Dakota becomes the only state in the nation without a manned Air Guard flying mission.