This Corsair A-7D parked in Helena, Montana, will be trucked to the Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston within the next year, according to Jerry Dewitt, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council. (Submitted photo)
LEWISTON — The venerable Veterans Memorial Park already holds a treasure trove of military hardware and memorials to honor local servicemen.
An Army jeep, a 5-inch rotating gun, an anchor, a shell from the USS Maine, more than a dozen memorial benches, including one dedicated to a Medal of Honor recipient, the names of thousands of local veterans carved into 27 granite stones.
But Jerry Dewitt, chairman of he L&A Veterans Council, had his eyes set on something bigger — a crown jewel, so to speak.
After two years of working toward that goal, Dewitt received confirmation last week from the U.S. Air Force that a jet aircraft will be landing within the next six months to a year at the Lewiston park next to the Great Falls.
The plane is a Corsair A-7D. It is more than 48 feet long and has a wingspan of nearly 40 feet.
“The L&A Veterans Council wanted to add an aircraft to the park to represent the Air Force,” Dewitt said. “It would be the icing on the cake.”
The fighter jet, which last flew in Panama in 1991 following Operation Just Cause, is sitting mostly forgotten at an airfield in Helena, Montana.
The A-7D sat for years at the Montana Vocational Technology aviation school in Helena. But since the school closed, it has sat alone, exposed to the Montana elements.
The United States Air Force museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio awarded the plane to the L&A Veterans Council and gave it permission to transport the plane to Maine.
Dewitt said his group has six months to move the plane to Lewiston. They are working with the Air Force, Maine’s congressional delegation, the Maine Army National Guard and the American Legion in Maine and Montana to bring the plane to Lewiston on a flatbed truck.
The wings are easily removable, Dewitt said. A pair of foot-long pins hold the wings to the fuselage.
The Corsair A-7D will be placed on a mound near the Gold Star Mothers’ memorial.
“We will need to build a platform for it,” Dewitt said, “to look like it’s flying.”
With the aircraft weighing more than 20,000 pounds, Dewitt is seeking a structural engineer to donate his or her time to advise the group on how to build the display.
Dewitt knows a person locally who has performed maintenance on the plane, but he would love to talk to anyone who might have flown that type of plane in Vietnam or afterward.
Anyone interested in helping is asked to call Dewitt at 207-576-0376.
Jerry DeWitt, chairman of the L&A Veterans Council, has secured a military aircraft to be displayed on a pedestal in Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston in the vicinity of the star, center. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo)