See the Inglorious Fighter Jets of 9/11

There are many 9/11 memorials across America -- often super-literal tributes to the Twin Towers -- but surely the strangest are the two F-16 fighter jets that were scrambled on that morning to defend Washington, DC. Why would the military want to memorialize that? They MEANT well, but part of the problem with 9/11 was that America's vaunted air defense system, frankly, sucked.

The two aging fighters, part of a Fargo, North Dakota-based Air National Guard group known as the Happy Hooligans, were stationed at Langley field just outside of Washington. They were, in fact, the only fighter defense available to Washington on the morning of 9/11. When they were scrambled, unfortunately, no one told the pilots WHY they were being scrambled, so instead of flying over the city, they flew out to sea -- which is was what they had been trained to do (It was assumed that an attack would be from incoming cruise missiles from a Russian sub.). By the time the F-16s got back over Washington, the Pentagon had been in flames for twenty minutes.

(To be accurate, a third F-16 was also scrambled -- and flew out to sea -- but it couldn't have done much good; it was an unarmed trainer.)

In January 2007, all of the Happy Hooligans F-16s were retired. The military spared the two Washington F-16s from the scrap yard, and put them on display: one at an aircraft exhibit outside of the Fargo Air National Guard headquarters, the other at the McChord Air Museum south of Tacoma, Washington.

The two F-16s are enshrined as the jets that patrolled the skies over Washington, DC, on 9/11 -- true, but not during the part of 9/11 that mattered. Perhaps with a view to limiting awkward questions, the McChord jet is on a military base that forbids entrance to non-military people, and the Fargo jet is, well, way up in Fargo.


Hector International Airport

28th Ave., Fargo, ND
North Dakota Air National Guard. I-29 exit 67 onto 19th Ave. NW. Drive east about two miles. Turn north on University Drive. After one-half mile, turn left on 28th Ave. The "Heritage Park" aircraft exhibit is on your left.
Save to My Sights

Latest from Trunkations, the Blog

    More Blog

    My Sights

    My Sights on Roadside America

    Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips! ...Try My Sights

    Mobile Apps

    Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

    Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

    Sight of the Week

    Sight of the Week

    Dwarf Car Museum, Maricopa, Arizona (Sep 19-25, 2022)

    SotW Archive

    USA and Canada Tips and Stories

    More Sightings