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Chuck Gardner flying “The Brat III”


The Cavanaugh Flight Museum's P-51D was manufactured in 1944 and shipped to England. It was assigned to the 9th Air Force, 370th Fighter Group, 401st Fighter Squadron, and was flown by Lt. Hjalmar Johnsen. In June 1947 it was sold to the Swedish Air Force and served as Flygyapnet (FV) Serial No. 26115 based at F-4, Ostersund. Between 1952-53 it was sold to the Dominican Republic and served as Fuerza Aerea Dominica Serial No. 1918 until 1984 when it was retired from active service.The plane is painted in the colors and markings of Lt. Hjalmar Johnsen while in service with 401st Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group, of the 9th Air Force during World War II.


Hjalmar Johnsen was born on November 20, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York, to parents Olaf and Martine Johnsen. He was one of eight children. Hjalmar began his military career in 1939 when he joined the New York National Guard, and received assignment to Troop C, 101st Horse Cavalry. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hjalmar’s unit was nationalized and he applied for, and received, acceptance into the Army Air Corps.

In primary flight training Hjalmar learned to fly in a Stearman PT-17. Next, he mastered the Vultee BT-13A Valiant in Basic training. Finally, Hjalmar progressed to Advanced training where he completed his training in the North American AT-6 Texan. He graduated flight school in July 1943 and was assigned to 370th Fighter Group, 401st Fighter Squadron, of the 9th Air Force.

Hjalmar trained in P-47s for deployment to Europe. After arriving in Andover, England his group transitioned to P-38s in preparation for the Normandy invasion. Hjalmar flew more than 64 ground-support combat missions, many in his assigned airplane, which he named “The Brat”. On October 4, 1944, while on a bombing mission “The Brat” was hit by ground fire. He bailed out over Belgium sustaining a broken leg and was picked up by Americans near the front lines. In March, of 1945 the 401st received their new P-51s, which they flew until the war ended. The P-51 Hjalmar flew was 44-72339; the same aircraft now on display at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. During his military service Hjalmar was decorated with the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 10 clusters.

Hjalmar returned home after the war, married Rita Mederle and started a family. The Johnsen's had two children, Jal and Lynn. Hjalmar worked for United Parcel Service for 30 years before retiring. Hjalmar Johnsen passed away on March 12, 1999.


A special thanks to Chuck Gardner, The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and the Cavenaugh Flight Museum


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