Curiosity inspired David Myhra, 80, to pursue a writing career.
Myhra, born and raised in Wahpeton, was interested from a young age about World War II aircraft. Writing has allowed him to tell the stories of aircraft ranging from well-known to experimental.
“Some were jet-powered, some were rocket-powered,” Myhra said. “They would change the course of the war. My curiosity has been to find out all about them and pass the story along to the readers.”
Since the late 1990s, Myhra has been a prolific author. He estimates a total of 12 hardcover and 50 ebooks.
“I’m working on one last book, on the history of the Horten Ho 229,” Myhra said.
A German fighter and bomber, one of the Hortens was shipped to Newark, New Jersey. Myhra described how it ended up in Indiana.
“General ‘Hap’ Arnold wanted to collect one of every foreign aircraft,” Myhra said. “They wanted to have a museum. When he died of a heart attack, everyone was tired of the war. They didn’t care about foreign planes. This one deteriorated. Some were sold to private collectors.”
During Myhra’s youth in Wahpeton, some World War II airplanes were on the North Dakota State College of Science campus. Although short-lived, the display caught his attention.
“I was pretty much homeschooled,” he said. “I was the son of immigrants, as many of us were.”
Olaf Myhra, who emigrated from Norway as a child, worked as a carpenter at the Wahpeton campus. Elizabeth Myhra’s roots began somewhere in Russia.
“She never ever talked about her ancestry, ever. She could speak Russian, Hungarian, Ukrainian and German. But in our house, it was always English that was spoken. She’d say, ‘My languages are my past and your future is all in English,’” Myhra said.
When he was around 7 years old, Myhra would be asked by his mother to write about any topic. He’d create a small essay and they’d talk. While siblings James, Mary and Barbara enjoyed going to school for social activities, Myhra enjoyed his learning at home.
“She was a very bright individual,” he said about his mother.
The recipient of a PhD in business planning from Princeton University, Myhra has served in the business and research communities and the armed forces. He stated that he served in the U.S. Marine Corps, with a focus on naval air intelligence, during the Vietnam War era.
Operating primarily out of Bangkok, Thailand, Myhra sought to recover the remains of U.S. pilots shot down over the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Cambodia and Laos. The small task force was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, Myhra stated.
“Unfortunately, my record (with the CIA) has been eliminated,” he said. “There is no evidence that I have served. This was all secret stuff. We were not supposed to be in Cambodia at the time.”
Following his overseas service, Myhra went on to work for General Electric’s missile and space division.
“It was my job to test all the biofuel rocket engines. These were in rockets which sent satellites in orbit,” he said.
Later in his career, Myhra received a Rockefeller Fellowship to research and write about the bankruptcy of three nuclear power plants in the state of Washington. “Whoops!” was published in 1984.
Since the 1980s, Myhra has interviewed numerous former German aviation designers and gas turbine rocket scientists. He has been involved with the production of numerous TV documentaries.
A widower, Myhra was married for 55 years to his wife, Julie. The pair met when he was attending college in Aberdeen, South Dakota.
“I went over to this girl with long, dark hair and asked her to dance. After the second dance, she said, ‘You’re going to marry me.’ Well, I was a senior then and was all signed up for the Marine Corps. She said, ‘That’s all well and good, but don’t come home with any bullet holes.’”
Julie Myhra was a loving woman, mother, wife and homemaker, her husband recalled.
“She totally supported me as a writer, which made me happy and gave me confidence,” David Myhra said.
Residing in Naples, Florida, Myhra considers writing about aviation history to still be a hobby.
“I’ve never been interested in it for the money, but I have been interested in the history for a long time,” he said.