A Japanese air attack on Coldwater? Commemorative Air Force planes land in Branch County

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Messenger and South lakes looked like they were under attack by Japanese World War II planes on the weekend of June 16.

Six single-engine planes swooped in formation and landed at the Branch County Memorial Airport, accompanied by a lone U.S. plane.

Airport Board Chair Mike Kelly headed there to find members of the Commemorative Airport, headquartered in Dallas.

"They stopped in Coldwater for gas and to eat since we had a restaurant," he said.

Kelly, who is rebuilding his fourth Fairchild World War II trainer, said, "They were coming from Minnesota from an air show on the way to Willow Run," the Ford plant airport west of Detroit.

The planes are not actual Japanese aircraft. All were put together to appear in the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora," about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Later, the planes appeared in the "Battle of Midway."

The Commemorative Air Force started as the Confederate Air Force around 1960 to preserve World War II aircraft.

The group began to search seriously for other World War II aircraft. It quickly became apparent that few remained in flying condition. By the end of the war, America had produced nearly 300,000 aircraft. Just 15 years later, almost all the warbirds were gone.

On Sept. 6, 1961, the CAF was chartered as a nonprofit Texas corporation to restore and preserve World War II-era combat aircraft. By the end of the year, there were nine aircraft in the CAF fleet.

In 1965, the first museum building consisting of 26,000 square feet was completed at old Rebel Field, Mercedes, Texas.

Today, the CAF has approximately 13,000 members and a fleet of more than 175 aircraft representing more than 60 different types — including planes from several foreign countries and other military conflicts since World War II.

Headquartered in Dallas, CAF members live in every state and 28 foreign countries. It was squadrons and air wings in 26 states and four foreign countries.

Those watching the skies around Coldwater got to see the seven planes firsthand.

The lone U.S. plane accompanying the six Japanese replica aircraft.
The lone U.S. plane accompanying the six Japanese replica aircraft.
Three Commemorative Air Force planes fueling with 1,000 gallons of gas.
Three Commemorative Air Force planes fueling with 1,000 gallons of gas.
A replica Japanese Zero flys over Branch County Memorial Airport.
A replica Japanese Zero flys over Branch County Memorial Airport.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Reporter: A Japanese air attack on Coldwater?