Art Dobias' war experiences to be featured in exhibit at 'In Their Own Words' Museum in Perham; unveiling is June 13
If Art Dobias were alive today, on the 70th anniversary of the fateful World War II invasion of Hitler's Europe by Allied Forces, his daughter, Ronni Nordby, said he would likely be his typical low-key and humble self.
He would likely be no different on another milestone day a week from today, on Friday, June 13 in Perham, Minn., his daughter added, when he will be the latest soldier featured in the "In Their Own Words" (ITOW) Museum in that city.
"Dad was a humble man, especially regarding his war stories," Nordby said of her father, a Crookston native born in 1925 who served in the 493rd Bomb Group in the 8th Army Air Force during World War II in Europe.
Art's wife and Nordby's mom, Sarah, still lives on the family farm near Angus. Nordby lives in Crookston but spends much of the week on the farm with her mom.
So why the ITOW Museum in Perham? Well, Nordby said, she has an incredible amount of mementos and artifacts from her dad's time in the war, items that include the actual letter Art authored after the B-17 bomber he was in crashed shortly after takeoff with a full load of bombs.
"...suddenly the entire plane began to shudder," Art wrote. "The engines were roaring their all, it seemed, but we were losing altitude."
Art's letter will be part of the exhibit. He actually survived two plane crashes during his time in the service, Nordby added.
"Perham was my decision because I had so much of dad's World War II things, including his leather flight jacket, helmets, goggles, airplane parts from the crash, manuals," she said. "I didn't want it lost, or just forgotten. I knew about the ITOW Museum, and they were very honored and excited to take these items and make an exhibit from them."
The opening of Art's exhibit will be celebrated on Friday, June 13 at the ITOW Museum. A free wine and cheese reception will get things started before the program honoring Art gets underway. Nordby will be there as a "special guest." The museum is located at 805 West Main Street in Perham.
Art died just over four years ago and he is buried in Crookston's Oakdale Cemetery. At his graveside sits a wooden cross that he crafted himself, Nordby said. He made the cross to be placed at the grave of his only son and Nordby's brother, Bruce, who was killed in a motorcycle crash while stationed in California. Bruce was in the Air Force and was a tanker crew chief during the Vietnam War, his sister said.
But the wooden cross remains at Art's gravesite. "I've been trying to find someone to make another wooden cross just like it, because I just think my Dad and my Brother should each have one," Nordby said. "So far I haven't been able to find anyone."
During the war, Art was based at Debach Airfield in Suffolk, England. He flew 14 combat missions over the Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe as a waist and ball turret gunner aboard B-17 bombers. After the war, he also made five food drops in Holland. Art and his family returned to his base in 2002, where they also visited his crash site. There, the family used metal detectors to recover several of the artifacts that will be part of the exhibit at the Perham museum.
"It was quite a trip," Nordby recalled.
After his time in the service, Art farmed for many years before enrolling in a new aviation school in Thief River Falls, where he was a member of the first graduating class. "He was an airplane mechanic all over the place and worked for many years at the Crookston Airport fixing crop sprayers and anything else," Nordby said. "Everybody who has anything to do with aviation in our area knew Dad really well."