HUDSON — On Dec. 7, 1941, when so many of the airplanes and ships at Pearl Harbor were destroyed by the Japanese in Honolulu, one fighter plane began a journey more than half-way across the earth and eventually finding a home in a museum here.
At the American Heritage Museum, 568 Main St., the Collings Foundation has a Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk fighter plane that was at Pearl Harbor on that Day of Infamy 79 years ago. It is the last fully restored and flying fighter plane that survived the attack that shocked the nation and forced the United States into World War II .
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor cost the lives of 2,403 Americans, including 68 civilians. Another 1,178 were wounded. The attack damaged or destroyed many of the ships in the Pacific fleet, and a majority of the aircraft based there.
Among those who died at Pearl Harbor were Buglemaster 2nd Class Lionel W. Lescault, a Spencer native who was living in Worcester when he enlisted, and Seaman First Class Maurice Mastrototaro of Worcester. Lescault was on the deck of the USS Oklahoma at the time of the attack. Mastrototaro served aboard the USS Curtis.
The museum's P-40B never got into the fight, and that may be why it survived, according to Hunter Chaney, director of marketing for the American Heritage Museum. It was attached to the 18th Pursuit Group at Wheeler Field on O'ahu, Hawaii.
The 18th Pursuit group sustained extensive losses in the attack. The only two planes in the squadron to get off the ground were shot down.
"Prior to the attack, the P-40 was involved in a wheels up landing," Chaney said. "It was put into a hanger to be repaired, and during the attack, the hanger collapsed around it."
The plane was returned to the United States and restoration began by the Curtiss-Wright Historical Association, which was founded in 1989 in Torrance, California. Using as many original parts as possible, including those from other planes that crashed in 1941, the P-40B was rebuilt from the ground up.
"It took a good 25 years in restoration," Chaney said. "The airframe itself was pretty badly damaged, so everything needed to be restored and overhauled."