Lt Col (Ret.) Grove Rathbun Tribute

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Not long ago one of the aviators featured in the South Dakota Air & Space Museum passed away.  We want to recognize Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Grove A. Rathbun’s service to the nation and to South Dakota aviation.  Colonel Rathbun was born in the town of Deadwood in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  

In his youth, he would watch B-17 bombers stationed at Rapid City Army Air Base (now Ellsworth Air Force Base) fly training missions during World War II.  He learned to fly at 17 years old in a J3 Cub while in high school in Nisland, SD.  After graduating from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and taking a job as a mining engineer in Minnesota, he joined the Minnesota Air National Guard and became an air defense fighter pilot.  He later transferred to the Pennsylvania Air National Guard before coming home to South Dakota.  He flew several types of aircraft during his Air National Guard service including the F-102 Delta Dagger and the A-7 Corsair II.   In fact, the A-7 aircraft on display here at the museum (serial number 74-1739) is one of the aircraft that Colonel Rathbun personally flew.


The museum also features a fine example of an F-102 Delta Dagger. 

One of Colonel Rathbun’s air defense flight suits is also on display in the museum gallery.

 In addition to his military flying, Colonel Rathbun was an active and prominent civilian pilot in South Dakota.  He served as the President of the South Dakota Pilots Association and was the recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award.  His amazing 65 continuous years as an active pilot is truly noteworthy.  We are proud to be able to honor Colonel Rathbun’s achievements here at the museum.  We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends on the passing of this extraordinary South Dakota aviator.

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