Trucker hauls Vietnam-era bomber cross-country for local vets group
July 24, 2019
When the call from his local veterans group came asking for help delivering a plane, trucker Eric Dashiell said he knew he had to help.
Dashiell, an OOIDA member from Hampden, Maine, told Land Line Now’s Terry Scruton that members of the Lewiston and Auburn Veterans Council contacted him about helping to haul their A-7D Corsair fighter jet from its current home in Montana to Lewiston, Maine.
“I figured if I go out and help the veterans, it would be a good deed done,” he said. “It was kind of cool to do this for them.”
While not a veteran himself, Dashiell’s father, grandfather and son have all served in the U.S. military.
The move was two years in the making. Dashiell was able to deliver the body of the plane on July 22. A second trip will be required to get the plane’s wings, which had to be removed prior to the fuselage making its journey.
Jerry DeWitt, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Veterans Council and commander of American Legion Post 22 in Lewiston, said the group has been trying for years to bring an aircraft to the park as a tribute to members of the U.S. Air Force.
The plane has been sitting in an airfield in Helena, Montana, at the site of the former Montana Vocational Technology aviation school. The plane is being disassembled in order to be shipped halfway across the country to its new home at the Lewiston Veterans Memorial Park.
The group also is seeking volunteers to help reassemble the plane at the park.
Dashiell said the trip back was a “smooth ride” and that his fighter jet cargo was a real head-turner.
“I had people walk up to me in the service plazas, truck stops at night, when I would try to go to bed,” he said. “They would be there asking me questions about it. Taking pictures, telling me stories. Some were good, some were sad. Some of the older guys that talked about it, they used to fly them. They had buddies that flew them and didn’t make it back home … So you know all the way back it was special.”
According to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the LTV A-7D Corsair II was a tactical close air support aircraft. Deliveries of production models began in December of 1968. They were known for their outstanding ground attack capabilities during the Southeast Asia War. The Corsair II also saw action in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 before being retired in the early 1990s. The plane is just over 46 feet long and 16 feet tall, with a wingspan of 38 feet, 8 inches. It weighs over 39,000 pounds when fully loaded.
DeWitt says the group is still seeking donations to fund the second trip by Dashiell to pick up the plane’s wings and transport them back to Maine.
“We’re trying to raise about $10,000,” he said, noting that the expenses are meant to cover Dashiell’s costs as well as to pay for a crane to load the truck in Montana and unload it in Maine. DeWitt said volunteers from the American Legion Post 2 in Helena have been helping disassemble the plane and ready it for its cross-country journey.
The Lewiston-Auburn Veterans Park started in 1998. It features monument stones and other artifacts on display. DeWitt says the city of Lewiston has agreed to build a display platform for the plane.
Donations can be sent to the Lewiston-Auburn Veterans Council, attention “Plane,” at 80 Pond Road, New Gloucester, ME 04260.
“We appreciate any help that people can give,” DeWitt said in a phone interview with Land Line.