Five German Luftwaffe airplanes during World War II were shot down in 15 minutes by one pilot who was born and raised in North Dakota. Because of this, “Scrappy” Blumer earned the title “Fastest Ace in a Day.”
For his action during the war, Blumer received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 22 Oak Leaf Clusters, and 24 other decorations.
Laurence Elroy Blumer was born May 31, 1917, in Walcott to Paul and Geoline (Rockstad) Blumer. At the time, Paul Blumer operated a small produce store in Walcott, but moved a couple of years later to help at his father’s farm near Colfax.
During most of the 1920s, the Blumers lived in Fargo, where Blumer attended elementary school, his father clerked at the Fairmont Creamery, and his mother worked at Midland Produce. In 1928, the family returned to Walcott for a year and then relocated in Kindred.
In high school, Blumer excelled in track and basketball, helping Kindred advance to the state tournament in Class B division basketball. He also was known as an excellent woodworker and was in big demand for local carpentry and construction projects. He graduated from high school in 1936 and spent a couple of years working before enrolling at Concordia. In 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and his father moved to Puyallup, Wash., to work in a munitions plant.
Blumer went with the family to Washington and, while there, purchased a plane that he used to fly around the northwestern part of the state. On March 23, 1942, he enlisted with the Army Air Corps and, after basic training, was sent to the flight school at Luke Field, near Phoenix. Blumer received his wings on March 10, 1943, and was then stationed at the Marysville Cantonment (later named Camp Beale).
A unit that trained at the Marysville Army Airfield, during the early stages of the war, was the 367th Fighter Group, and Blumer became a part of that group. One evening at Marysville, Blumer attended a party and ended up in a brawl with a couple of Marines. One of the people who witnessed the fight, where Blumer held his own despite facing a distinct disadvantage, was his commanding officer. The next morning, he was told to report to his C.O., and instead of a reprimand, he was given an apropos nickname, “Scrappy.”
The training for the 367th was intense as eight pilot trainees were killed when their planes crashed. By March of 1944 the group was on its way to Europe. The members of the 367th went to the British air field at Stoney Cross in England. When they arrived, most of the pilots were shocked to find out that they were assigned to fly twin-engine (P-38 Lightnings) instead of the single engine P-51 Mustangs on which they had been trained. This meant that all of the pilots needed to be retrained.
By early May, the pilots of the 367th were declared ready for combat in their P-38s. The group was divided into three squadrons: 392nd, 393rd, and 394th, with Capt. Blumer serving as commander of the 393rd. In recognition of his nickname, he named his plane “Scrap Iron.”
The P-38 was designed as a fighter aircraft, but it also carried two 500-pound bombs and was often used on low level bombing runs. Action for the 367th was intense during the first four months they were stationed in England, and Blumer lost three different airplanes during this time.
Scrap Iron I was on a bombing run over France when a bullet came through the floor of his aircraft, passing between his legs and arms and grazing the side of his face. He made it back to England, but the shot knocked out Blumer's landing gear, and the damage done by a belly-landing made the plane useless and beyond repair.
When out on a mission in Scrap Iron II, Blumer’s hydraulic system went out. He made it back to England, and the plane was repaired. Another pilot used the airplane and was downed over Europe. Blumer was shot down over enemy territory in Scrap Iron III, but he was able to locate British troops who helped escort him back to England.
One of Blumer's most harrowing experiences took place on July 4, 1944, when he swooped down to drop bombs on a moving train. His left wing clipped a telephone pole, tearing off the outer 4 feet and destroying the left engine. Blumer miraculously stabilized his aircraft and flew it back to England. When he got out of the plane, he saw that he had also brought with him 300-yards of communication lines that had become tangled in the lower portion of his airplane.
On Aug. 25, pilots of the 367th were sent on a mission to bomb three German airfields in northern France. After the 393rd Squadron finished their mission, they regrouped and prepared to return to England. A distress call from the 394th came to Blumer stating that they were being pursued by 50 Germans flying FW-190s.
He immediately responded with his wingman William Awtrey, heading straight for the middle of the German swarm. On his first dive, Blumer shot down two enemy planes. He then went into a climb and dove, taking out two more planes. Using the same technique, Blumer brought down one more plane before the Germans fled.
On Nov. 19, Blumer downed a sixth enemy airplane, becoming North Dakota’s top ace. After having flown 120 combat missions, he returned stateside to become an airplane instructor at Camp Beale.
The U.S. had instituted a lend-lease program with the Soviet Union, in which we would supply them with airplanes. When it was reported that suitable airplanes were available for the Soviets at Hector Airport in Fargo, Blumer flew a P-63 Kingcobra to North Dakota to assess the planes’ condition. On the way, he decided to have a little fun and buzzed his former schools in Kindred and Walcott. For this, he received a severe reprimand.
Blumer separated from the service on Sept. 17 and, soon after, became engaged in a home construction business in Spokane, Wash. Blumer later retired in Oregon where he died on Oct. 23, 1997.