Oklahoma and Oklahomans made countless contributions during World War II, and in-state media organizations are helping document the stories.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture: After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, almost 5,500 Oklahomans gave their lives in the fight against fascism. Nineteen received Congressional Medals of Honor, and Oklahoma Generals Clarence Tinker and Raymond S. McLain and Admirals J. J. “Jocko” Clark and Marc A. Mitscher commanded major army and navy formations.
Furthermore, pilots were trained in Oklahoma. More than half of the 10,000 C-47 “Gooney Bird” cargo planes bought by the U.S. Army Air Force were made at a plant located east of Tinker Air Force Base. Douglas managed a bomber plant in Tulsa.
Oklahoma men and women made many other contributions to the war effort. Organizations are thanking and recognizing WWII veterans in a variety of ways. Oklahoma Honor Flights has sent 1,104 veterans on 11 all-expense-paid trips to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Last week, The Edmond Sun was privileged to send a reporter on an Oklahoma Honor Flights day-long trip along with 99 veterans. ABC’s Oklahoma City affiliate KOCO also sent a crew, and plans to air several individual reports as well as a 30-minute documentary.
The Oklahoma Press Association pays a reduced airfare rate to send media representatives on each flight, said OPA Executive Director Mark Thomas. After the flights, the OPA serves as a conduit and provides related stories and photographs to the state’s 195 daily and weekly newspapers, Thomas said.
The OPA uses its digital clipping service to find any mention of those stories and provides them to Oklahoma Honor Flights for several reasons, Thomas said.
In turn, Oklahoma Honor Flights uses the clippings to show prospective donors it truly is a statewide effort, Thomas said. Secondly, the organizations are keeping photos and articles to give to the Oklahoma Historical Society for a future exhibit about WWII veterans and how Oklahoma honored them, he said.
“Overall, it’s a terrific program run by true patriots that have a deep love and respect for sacrifices of veterans,” Thomas said. “Oklahoma newspapers share those same sentiments and it has been our pleasure and an honor to participate in this outpouring of gratitude for our citizens.”
Gary Banz, executive director of Oklahoma Honor Flights, said the importance of archiving information about Oklahoma’s WWII veterans will be realized 50 years from now when future residents wonder what was done to preserve that history.
Michael Dean, public relations director for the Oklahoma Historical Society, said information being collected by these two organizations certainly fits with the society’s mission to collect, preserve and share.
In addition to its numerous archiving efforts, the Oklahoma Historical Society operates five historic military sites in the state — Fort Gibson (est. 1824), Fort Towson (1824), Fort Washita (1842), Fort Supply (1868) and the Honey Springs Battlefield (1863).
The next Oklahoma Honor Flights trip leaves from Tulsa on April 17. Flights in June and September are pending. Donors and volunteers make these trips possible. Donors include many Oklahoma businesses, schools, organizations, individuals and families. The first flight in May 2010 was inspired after WWII veteran Al Willoughby went on a Dallas Honor Flights trip. Early supporters here included Sen. Tom Coburn and then-Gov. Brad Henry.
For more information about the trip, including eligibility requirements, and about how you can support the effort, visit oklahomahonorflights.org. At the site, you can download an application for a veteran and see lists of donors.
As of Oct. 6, another 230 veteran applications were on file with Oklahoma Honor Flights.
Edmond veterans who have taken Honor Flights include:
Quimby Enterline (May 17, 2010)
Harold R. Goodwin (Oct. 12, 2010)
Robert Wilbanks Jr. (Oct. 12, 2010)
Clyde Barber (May 4, 2011)
Ewing Baxter (May 4, 2011)
Glenn Dooley (May 4, 2011)
Raymond Lueb (May 4, 2011)
Oren Peters (May 4, 2011)
Francis Ahrnsbrak (Oct. 12, 2011)
Ewing Baxter (Oct. 12, 2011)
Vernon Kouts (Oct. 12, 2011)
Wesley Schuler (Oct. 12, 2011)
Leland Bass (June 6, 2012)
Benson Dutcher (June 6, 2012)
James Elder (June 6, 2012)
Argus Hill (June 6, 2012)
Anthony Hoyne (June 6, 2012)
Harold Huggins (June 6, 2012)
William Johnson (June 6, 2012)
James Martin (June 6, 2012)
Nellye Meintsma (June 6, 2012)
Seward Meintsma (June 6, 2012)
Harold Melvin (June 6, 2012)
Lowell Sackett (June 6, 2012)
Harold Schmid (June 6, 2012)
Noland Simpkins (June 6, 2012)
Ernest Toepfer (June 6, 2012)
Nolan Glasgow (Oct. 24, 2012)
Charles Head (Oct. 24, 2012)
Arthur Powell (Oct. 24, 2012)
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