National Museum of the United States Air Force
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
The League of World War I Aviation Historians
As we approach the conclusion of the Centennial of World War I, here is a story about a monument to the U.S. Airmen who served at the Front. These early military aviators and the associate ground crews fought the “War to End all Wars” and established many of the traditions the United States Air Force continues to this day.
In the fall of 2016, the Military Heritage Chapter (Dayton/Cincinnati/Columbus) of the League of World War I Aviation Historians conducted a tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF) Memorial Park. During the tour, the Chapter noted there is no monument to the U.S. Airmen who served at the Front during World War I. Given the fact we are commemorating the Centennial of WW I, the League wanted to establish a monument at the NMUSAF in memory of the Airmen who formed the foundation for today’s United States Air Force. The monument would inspire and motivate current and future generations to study the evolution of military airpower during the Great War.
After engaging with representatives from the NMUSAF and a local monument company, the Chapter approached the League’s Board of Directors in October 2016 with a proposal for the monument. The Board enthusiastically accepted the proposal. Based on technical advice from the monument company (Dodds Monuments of Xenia, Ohio) and feedback from the NMUSAF, the Project Manager’s initial monument design was slightly modified and subsequently approved by the Air Force Historical Research Agency and the NMUSAF on 7 June 2017. The next step had the Chapter and Board reaching out to various sponsors (both the individual 300+ League members and potential business/patriotic organizations) for financial support of this memorable project.
The 21 September 2018 monument dedication date was chosen because the NMUSAF will conduct their biennial Dawn Patrol during that weekend. The Dawn Patrol features a number of events including flybys by replica WWI aircraft. Literally, thousands of people attend the weekend event and it’s a wonderful opportunity to commemorate the conclusion of the Centennial. We believe the monument will be a lasting cultural testament to the early pioneers of military aviation…including ground support personnel as well as those who actually flew operational missions. In addition, the monument will help rekindle the memory of these Airmen to the millions of people who will visit the NMUSAF in the future. Finally, the monument’s dedication will end our Centennial events in a truly moving fashion and provide a vehicle for promoting continued educational and research interest in America’s early military aviation legacy.
Since the Museum’s Memorial Park lacks a memorial to the US Airmen of WWI, this monument would bridge the cultural gap between WWI and the USAF Memorials of later conflicts. The US Air Service of WW1 was the forerunner of today’s US Air Force. We believe constructing this monument at the NMUSAF will properly recognize and memorialize our WWI Airmen who had the call, sacrifice, and dedication to serve in a hostile conflict for what was right.
Thanks to a number of grants and the generosity of historical groups, military organizations, and personal contributions, we’ve reached our financial goal of $28,000. The black granite monument is currently in the final stages of having the images laser etched. Once the etching is complete, the monument will be transported and constructed at the Memorial Park of the NMUSAF in August. A wonderful dedication ceremony is being planned for 21 September which includes representatives from a number of nations, guest speakers, flybys by a B-1 bomber and an aerial tribute by up to 18 bi-planes, WWI re-enactors, and a 21 gun salute.
Ultimately, honoring our Airmen of WWI and recognizing today’s Airmen who share the heritage established by these early aviators will be a fitting way to end the Centennial of World War I. For more information about this monument go to Overthefront.com.
Robert A. Kasprzak, Major, USAF (Retired)
Monument Project Manager