Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Skylar Rispens

Miss Montana honors father of Seeley Lake resident


Photo provided by Cheri Thompson

Ivan Odom, in the cockpit in the left photo, flew a C-47 he affectionately named "The Silver Saloon" during the Pacific Theater in World War II. His daughter Seeley Lake resident Cheri Thompson purchased one of the 15 seats in the Miss Montana (right) in his memory.

MISSOULA - The rebuilt C-47 plane known as "Miss Montana" is headed to Normandy, France to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 6. Seeley Lake resident Cheri Thompson purchased a seat in the plane to honor her father's memory.

According to the Miss Montana to Normandy website, the reconstruction efforts were made to honor the Montanans who served in the military during World War II by making the trip to Normandy with over 40 other C-47 planes from the United States. Miss Montana began the journey from Missoula on May 11.

Thompson saw the reconstruction as an opportunity to honor her late father Ivan Odom, who died in 2008. Odom served in the Air Force as a cargo pilot and flew C-47s, similar to Miss Montana, during the Pacific Theater in WWII. He joined the Air Force in February, 1943 and received orders to return home in December of 1945. According to Thompson, Odom nicknamed his C-47 the "Silver Saloon," because they would always pick up liquor whenever they stopped to retrieve materials to ferry around for the war effort.

"Dad finished his engineering degree and stayed in the Air Force reserves until retirement as a Lt Colonel. He was slated to go to Korea [as a pilot] but was deemed too valuable in his civilian job to be released. He truly loved being in the Air Force and being a pilot as well," wrote Thompson in her father's biography.

Thompson recently inherited her family's photos, some images date back to the 1870s. While going through the contents she discovered photos of her father from when he served in WWII. She also found many of his letters home to his family. She realized that many of the photos being shared online from the war were similar to her father's. Although the people were different, Thompson could feel the connection to her father.

Thompson purchased one of the 15 seats available for $790. This covered the cost of replacing the seat. A memorial plaque was placed on the seat with Odom's name. His photograph and biography will reside in the plane as well.

According to Thompson, she purchased the seat to provide a "tombstone" for her father. When Odom died, his remains were cremated.  

"We need to keep those memories so that people can understand what can happen along the way," said Thompson.

Photo provided

Ivan Odom

Miss Montana never flew during WWII, as it was completed after the conclusion of the war, but it did find ways to serve its namesake. In 1949, Miss Montana carried the smokejumpers that fought the Mann Gulch fire that claimed the lives of 13 firefighters.

According to Miss Montana to Normandy website, Miss Montana crashed into water and killed 12 passengers while under the ownership of Johnson Flying Service. The plane was later found in Atlanta, Ga. by Dick Komberec, founder of the Museum of Montana Flying in Missoula, Mont. The museum organized fundraising efforts to return Miss Montana to her home state.

By flying to Normandy, Miss Montana will complete its original mission, 75 years later.


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