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April 22, 2011 10:00 PM

Harold Thune: Fighter Pilot Signs Artwork

Sioux Falls, sd

The father of South Dakota senator John Thune took a trip back in time today. Harold Thune recalled his days as a fighter pilot during World War II.

He hasn't talked much about the war since then, but opened up today all because of one artist.

It's a picture from a different time. Harold Thune signed a series of prints of the plane he flew during World War Two; the F6F-5 Hellcat. 

"That's a great airplane," Thune said.

The picture was drawn by artist John Mollison who wanted to meet one of the pilots who flew the Hellcat and had a hand in the war that changed the world.

Thune flew numerous missions for the Navy from an aircraft carrier. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down four enemy planes in the Hellcat. 

"It was a little bigger then the Japanese planes and thankfully a little faster," Thune said.

During one of his missions, Thune describes how a Japanese plane was on his tail and couldn't shake him. So he did a maneuver called chop throttle and horse back. It allowed the Japanese plane to fly right by him putting him in a favorable position to shoot it down and that's what he did. 

"His plane was on fire, he got out on the wing and jumped off," Thune said.

Thune then had to make a life or death decision; not for himself, but for the enemy pilot. 

"To have him hanging out there in a parachute right in front of me, then I had to make the decision do I take him out or do I let him go," Thune said.

Thune says at that moment he thought about our own pilots who were shot down during the war and decided not to kill him. 

"You just respond do whatever. It seemed to be the thing to do, but war is hell," Thune said.

If you'd like to learn more about artist John Mollison and his prints. Here is a link to his website.

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