History Department displays Unique Aviation Artifact.

Author:Milhous, Alexander M.
Position:News - Biography

At the conclusion of the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, a government employee pushes an unlabeled crate that is assumed to contain the Ark of the Covenant into a vast storage facility containing thousands of identical boxes. For many years a similar, if much smaller, repository existed in the basement of Harmon Hall. Scores of irreplaceable aviation artifacts were stored there, collecting dust and exciting little interest. Among them was a 1/48th scale B-25 model fashioned of wood. Retrieved from the basement and adopted by the Department of History, the model was displayed prominently for many months until its age and condition mandated minor repairs.

During this restoration a small rolled-up piece of North American Company notepaper was discovered hidden in the fuselage. The note had the simple, penciled inscription "Elton Whitfill, 1944." Subsequent investigation revealed that the often-overlooked model was actually one of only seven very special presentation examples made during World War II. One apparently went to General Jimmy Doolittle, who flew the B-25 bomber on his famous Tokyo raid. The governors of Kansas and Missouri each received one. Another went to General Dwight Eisenhower. It's likely a sixth went to General Carl Spaatz and eventually found its way to the Air Force Academy. The final model was reserved for the President of the North American Company, the actual bomber's manufacturer.

It turns out that Elton Whitfill crafted and built the seven models. Born in 1913, Whitfill joined the North American Aviation Corporation in 1941 as a pattern-maker and eventually rose to become general foreman of his...

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