SCHAF Press Release - October 21, 2011
Ramping up for the 70th anniversary of Columbia Army Air Base’s opening, Springdale Mayor Pat Smith (left), Cayce Mayor Elise Partin, and Chapin Mayor Stan Shealy get acquainted with the region’s largest artifact remaining from that WWII era of B-25 dominance here in the midlands. Citizens from communities all three mayors represent were involved in the bomber training center. The rare B-25C, under the stewardship of the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation, is hangared at the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar, Hamilton Owens Airport.
Columbia Army Air Base reunion set:
Military and civilian personnel sought for 70th anniversary observance and day of remembrance December 3, 2011
Khaki sleeves, along with civilian white, gray, and plaid sleeves, were rolled up during WWII for work toward the common goal of freedom, and at Columbia Army Air Base that meant getting aviation training crews combat ready.
“As we pause December 3 to remember all those who endeavored for freedom, shoulder to shoulder, we want to pay special tribute to those among us who worked or served at CAAB. We want to bring them together again, 70 years later. Those who served but are no longer with us we hope will be represented by their family members,” said Cantzon Foster, President of South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation (SCHAF).
By early 1942 civilians from communities throughout the midlands had dropped what they were doing and signed on for jobs in the laundry and parachute rooms, in the mechanics bay and the post office, the local bank and the welding shop.
The base became the employer of hundreds of residents of Springdale, Cayce, West Columbia, Swansea, Columbia and Lexington. Now SCHAF is searching for those civilian patriots, along with any military who served on CAAB.
The air base that emerged on what, only a year earlier, had been family farmland became the Allies’ largest B-25 training center. CAAB helped put Columbia, South Carolina, on aviation charts throughout the world. As the rallying site for a highly-secret mission that became known as the Doolittle Raid, Columbia took its place in the annals of history because CAAB was here.
“It’s been 70 years since the B-25 center opened,” Foster said. “We now want to honor our fellow citizens who were part of CAAB’s success. We hope they will come and reunite on this day of remembrance.”
As part of the day’s observances, an informal reunion will be held between noon and 1 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3 at the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission hangar, adjacent to Columbia Metropolitan Airport, where CAAB was situated. According to SCHAF vice president for education Ron Shelton, the reunion will be the heart of the event.
“To give context to this reunion, there will be displays of WWII artifacts and vehicles, and demonstrations of WWII model airplanes. At 1 p.m. there will be a short patriotic program during which homage will be paid to all those who served at CAAB. More than 200 airmen perished in training accidents; we want to honor their memories as well,” Shelton said.
CAAB personnel and/or their families who pre-register will have special nametags created, indicating their role in the fight for freedom. More details about the 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. event can be found at www.schistoricaviation.org, or by calling 803 731-3254.
June 11-18 Aviation History Week Activities
Aviation history observed in days leading up to Father’s Day weekend
Marking aviation’s 100th anniversary in South Carolina, the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation(SCHAF) is observing flight’s first century in the Palmetto State with a family-centered week of activities culminating Father’s Day weekend (note: Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19).
One special guest for the events of June 17-18 will be Jimmy Shannon, co-pilot on the C-47 that extracted from China Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, along with reconnoitered members of his Tokyo Raid crew. Doolittle recruited crews for that historic mission at Columbia Army Air Base (CAAB). Following WWII, Shannon, now a resident of Houston, Tex., had a long and distinguished career as a commercial pilot.
Of special note: dates chosen for this multi-anniversary event coincide with the June 19 date on which Jimmy Doolittle returned to Columbia Army Air Base on a morale tour, just two months after the Tokyo Raid in which airmen - recruited here - responded to Pearl Harbor with a surprise attack.
Another special guest for the event will be author and memoirist Jonna Doolittle Hoppes who will sign copies of her popular books, Calculated Risk – an intimate look at her famous grandparents – as well as Just Doing Our Jobs, another look at life during the WWII era. Santa Monica Press published both titles.
Friday from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM at the SC State Museum, Pilot Shannon will speak about his WWII experiences and Jonna Hoppes will conduct a book signing. This event is free to the public.
Friday evening Jimmy Doolittle’s granddaughter will be the featured speaker during a 7 p.m. ticketed dinner at The Hall at Senate’s End (320 Senate Street). Hoppes will talk about growing up with revered grandparents, the poignant research process that dredged up long-settled emotions, and her memories of Jimmy and Joe.
Proceeds from the fund-raising dinner will support SCHAF’s initiatives to restore perhaps the state’s largest artifact representing the WWII era, a rare B-25C that ditched into Lake Greenwood on D-Day and remained there for 39 years. SCHAF formed late last year to prevent the Mitchell bomber from being sold to out-of-state interests. More info about this event and tickets are available at the SCHAF phone or email contact at the end of this article or thru the SCHAF web site. Tickets are $50 or $40 for SCHAF members.
According to SCHAF President C. Cantzon Foster II, “This plane represents a time in this state’s history when we were allied together for freedom. We just couldn’t stand by and let it leave South Carolina. It still has stories of history and sacrifice to tell future generations.”
The iconic plane along with a WWII C-47 airplane will be on public view Saturday, June 18 outside the Eagle Aviation Hangar, Hamilton Owens Airport, between 10 a.m. and noon. Shelton noted that informal walks around the planes will be given, “and WWII aviation veterans – some with ties to the Doolittle legacy - will be there to share first-hand accounts and put history into context.”
The morning also will feature a reunion of former Explorer scouts who worked on the B-25s first restoration, in the 1980s. SCHAF archivist Larry Yon, then scout leader of those Explorers, said: “A number of Explorers who worked on that plane were inspired to follow career paths into aviation, so they can speak from experience to today’s young people considering aviation as a vocation.”
A special appearance by flying members of the Carolinas’ chapter of the Ninety-Nines will be another highlight of the morning. SCHAF board member Xen Motsinger explained the Ninety-Nines formed in 1929 for the mutual support and advancement of women pilots.
“The group was named for the 99 – out of 117 female pilots licensed at that time – who attended that first meeting, or expressed interest in being part of the group.” Motzinger, a member of the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame, noted Amelia Earhart was a charter member. “She signed the log book at the Curtiss Wright Hangar, right here at Hamilton Owens.”
SCHAF board member Rachel Haynie said, “Participation by the Carolinas Chapter, Ninety-Nines, will broaden the morning’s scope. We hope women, especially young woman and girls interested in aviation will come out and meet these contemporary female aviators.”
Living History static displays also will be a feature of the morning. According to SCHAF treasurer and media coordinator Gary Byrd, “Columbians always respond positively to opportunities for revisiting this era of the state’s history. We look forward to introducing them to the plane and to membership in the organization.” Byrd is a founding member of Twentieth Century South Carolina Volunteers as well as the Palmetto Battalion, both living history organizations. He also is a member of Warbirds Living History Group of EAA Warbirds of America.
Bruce Cotner of Military Timeline Impressions also will have WWII-era memorabilia on view. “Coming out for this free event will be a great way to gear up for Father’s Day,” said Cotner.
Foster said SCHAF will continue this multi-anniversary observance with an early December event. “Besides being Columbia’s 225th anniversary, the 100th year of flight in South Carolina, it’s also the 70th anniversary of CAAB. The base was militarized immediately after Pearl Harbor, and it will be SCHAF’s honor to bring awareness to that aspect of our shared military history.”
For additional information on any South Carolina Historic Aviation Week events, go to www.SCHistoricAviation.org or call 803-731-3254.
SCHAF Press Release - April 2, 2011
SC Historic Aviation Foundation adds to Honor Flight weekend
South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation’s rare WWII B–25, in adding a salute to veterans with free Saturday morning, April 2 programming on the weekend of Honor Flight of South Carolina’s tribute, to include a ticketed 2 p.m. concert Sunday, April 3 at the Township Auditorium.
Robert Smith was an Explorer Scout and Airport High School student when he first laid eyes on the fragmented B-25 that went down in history on D-Day, then quickly sank to the bottom of Lake Greenwood.
“Our Post 15 was chosen to work on the recovered plane to begin the cleaning and corrosion-removal processes,” recalled Smith, then post president. “The aircraft’s wings were off, it had no landing gear and no propellers. We felt we were stepping back in time to a part of the state’s history we teenagers were unaware of.”
Smith will be reunited with the iconic Mitchell bomber Saturday, Feb. 5, during a member orientation at Hamilton-Owens Airport hosted by the South Carolina Historic Aviation Foundation. “I hope some others who were in the post will turn out as well,” said Smith, now employed by the South Carolina Department of Corrections. “What a great way this will be to kick off National Boy Scout Week!” (Note: Scout Sunday begins the week, Feb. 6-12.)
One of Smith’s lead advisors during the period his Explorer post assisted with the plane’s early restoration efforts was Larry Yon, then director of maintenance at the in-town airport, now a SCHAF founding board member. “We’ve kept in touch over the years – both advisors and scouts – and when I ran into Larry last week, he told me about SCHAF’s event to commemorate the date Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle came to town to begin recruiting for his secret mission.” (Note: B-25s were flown in the Tokyo Raid.)
A highlight of Saturday’s re-introduction of the plane will be walk-around tours, at 11 a.m., noon, and 1 p.m., led by the student pilot crewing on the plane when it ditched. “In addition to Lt. Col. Dan Rossman, whose hand I’ll enjoy shaking, I hope to talk with Frank Shumpert, one of the lead Midlands Aviation mechanics instrumental in the restoration project.”
Smith, who grew up near Columbia Metropolitan Airport where Columbia Army Air Base was located during WWII, has sustained his interest in aviation – after his Explorer Scout days – by attending military air shows. He now serves in the South Carolina National Guard as staff sergeant.
As post president, Smith came up with the idea for the Explorers to wear flight suits as their uniforms; a special patch differentiated scouts from active pilots. “I still have the patches and, for this event, will transfer them to a current flight suit which I will wear.”
Smith challenged members of former Post 15, later named Explorer Post 214 after the Baa Baa Black Sheep Squadron, to come out Saturday to see the plane SCHAF is gearing up to restore for 21st century South Carolinians.
Former Explorer Post 15 president Robert Smith is looking for others who worked on the B-25 with him: David McCall, Lance Franklin, Jim Rowe, Danny Stanton, Donald Kelly, John Patton III, Bonnie and Michael Gower, Lisa Hulon, Duke Baz, and Brenda Stroud.