March 22, 2017 Edition

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Air show to mark 75th
anniversary of airfield

Wings of Honor Museum Board President Harold Johnson shows a Pratt & Whitney engine from a BT-13 aircraft like those used to train pilots at the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School. This is just one of many exhibits at the museum, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Walnut Ridge Army Airfield this year.

Gretchen Hunt

Plans for the Wings of Honor Museum's annual airfield reunion are underway, but this year's event will be a special celebration. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Walnut Ridge Army Airfield in 1942 during World War II.

The Wings of Honor Festival was added to reunion activities last year, and this year, an air show, set for May 6, will highlight the festivities, which will also include a dinner on Friday night, two parachute jumps, entertainment by local groups and vendors.

For Harold Johnson, president of the Wings of Honor Museum, preservation of the story of the airfield and the sacrifices made during World War II is paramount.

"America was unprepared for WWII," he said. "We were 'down and out' so-to-speak, still recovering from the Great Depression. So many people were out of work, we had a fifth-rate military, and the American people, remembering WWI, didn't want another.

"The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor aroused a 'sleeping giant,' and America rose to the challenge. She mobilized, produced, volunteered, rolled up her sleeves, and paid the price... and what a price it was: Over 16,000,000 Americans served in WWII; over 405,000 died. We must never forget their service."

The 75th anniversary celebration will have a special focus on World War II, with the museum bringing in as many war birds as possible for static display or performance during the air show.

In addition, a display of remote control WWII warbirds is planned, which will allow the viewing of many of the legendary planes on a scaled-down level.

Committee members are planning a variety of activities for that Friday evening and throughout the day that Saturday to commemorate the anniversary and bring awareness to the museum.

"Harold and the museum volunteers have worked so hard to preserve and share this history," Dina Rose, event committee member, said. "They want more than anything to increase the awareness and the number of visitors to the museum, and this is one way to help make that happen."

Sponsors are still being sought to help fund the air show and other activities planned during the celebration. Both individuals and businesses can support the effort, and more information is available at or by contacting Johnson, Rose or any member of the museum board or event committee.

Among benefits for sponsors is ad space in the special commemorative program. Rose said that space can be used to promote a business, honor a veteran or both.

All money raised directly benefits the Wings of Honor Museum and any funds remaining after the event will be used for continued operations of the museum.

"Many people are unaware of the museum, the history we preserve, the story we tell and the servicemen and women we strive to honor," Johnson said. "The air show will introduce thousands of people to our magnificent Walnut Ridge Regional Airport and expose them to the Wings of Honor Museum."

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