VETERANS DAY, Nov. 11, 2011:
Special Honors for
World War II Airmen
Who Trained at Pratt Airfield
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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,