THE KANSAS
 AVIATION
CENTENNIAL

100 Years of Aviation Progress
1911-1912  to  2011-2012





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B-17 HAS KANSAS HISTORY, LIKE MANY OTHER WWII PLANES.

Though not as famously connected to Kansas as many other World War II aircraft, many B-17 parts were built at the Boeing-Wichita factory.

Some wartime B-17 crews were trained in Kansas, particularly at Salina.

As with the B-29 and all other U.S. WWII bombers, many B-17 crews received their primary and/or advanced flight training in Kansas-built trainers or at Kansas air fields -- and many of those airmen were Kansans.

In later American wars, too, thousands of airmen were:

  • recruited from this state, and/or

  • trained at Kansas air bases, and/or

  • trained in Kansas-built aircraft, and/or

  • went to war in Kansas-built aircraft.

 

 
NEWS ITEM:

VETERANS DAY, Nov. 11, 2011:

Special Honors for
World War II Airmen
Who Trained at Pratt Airfield

PRATT,
Nov. 11, 2011:

Duiring World War II, nearly a dozen military airfields throughout Kansas provided training for the heavy bomber crews of the U.S. Army Air Corps / Army Air Forces, and the U.S. Navy.  Among the bases was Pratt Army Air Field (today's Pratt Regional Airport), just northeast of this south-central Kansas community.  On Veterans' Day, Friday, ceremonies were conducted in memory of the thousands of Pratt-area veterans of all generations -- with particular commemoration of the World War II airmen who trained there, at Pratt Army Air Field. Most of those airmen entered combat immediately afterward... some perishing in the conflict.

The ceremony was the finale of a week of Veteran's Day observances in and around Pratt, starting with a "USO Show," -- imitating the live variety shows provided to entertain troops during World War II -- in the Pratt Municipal Building Saturday, Nov.5.

Veteran's Day, Friday, Pratt's observances began with a 9:30 ceremony for all veterans at the Liberty Middle School auditorium. Among those scheduled to be present and honored were two World War II bomber crewmen:  B-24 pilot Capt. Dean Galloway, and B-29 radio operator Staff Sgt. Joe Chovelak.

Later in the day, the Barron Theater presented the war movie “Memphis Belle,” the story of the first World War II B-17 bomber crew to complete 25 missions -- the point at which a crew was exempt from further combat missions. The combat death rate, at the time, was horrific for these crews over Germany and occupied Europe, with few of the first combat crews surviving, intact, for the full 25 missions.  The movie was free, but donations were taken for the Pratt B-29 Museum project.

PRATT WARTIME COUPLE HONORED

During the day's events, a particular Kansas couple, now passed, was especially remembered for their service during the ceremony. During World War II training in the B-29 bomber at the Pratt field, Lt. Calvin Lyons met his wife-to-be, Lois Webb, a worker at the Beech Aircraft factory in Wichita -- which was building wartime training and light-transport planes -- when she was persuaded to visit Pratt as part of a USO show for the troops training there. After meeting here, Lyons hitchhiked to Wichita, whenever he could, to see her. They married Nov. 12, 1945.

But between meeting and marriage, in early 1945, Calvin was sent to Guam -- one of the forward U.S. bases in the war with Japan. As a B-29 bombardier he flew over 700 hours, surviving 25 combat missions.

On one mission, risking his life, Lyons dislodged an armed bomb caught in the plane's bomb bay -- a feat for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In later life, Lyons’ had hoped that his ashes might be scattered at the Pratt Army Air Field, where so much of his life was shaped.

An Air Force honor guard from Wichita's McConnell Air Force Base conducted a flag ceremony for their family, at the end of the Veterans' Day events, Friday. Veteran Galloway delivered a short sermon and one of Lyons' relatives spoke of the couple.

By special arrangement, their ashes will be commingled and interred, next spring, on Memorial Day, at the Pratt B-29 Memorial that honors those who prepared, there, to enter the largest war in history.  The Memorial is arranging for an on-site "columbarium," a place for ashes of the deceased, to accommodate veterans.

For more info:

Pratt Veteran's Day event, KAKE-TV Ch.10, Wichita

Special Events to Honor Veterans, Pratt Tribune newspaper

Pratt Veterans' Memorial

K.C. Bettys (women's military commemorative group, Kansas City)


Last revised/updated Nov.12, 2011

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact the:
Kansas Aviation Centennial Committee
Richard Harris, Chariman,
(316) 371-9079
office@ks100aviation.org

 


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