Colorado Aviation Historical Society honors state’s WWII RCAF and RAF volunteers

Lance Barber addresses the attendees.
Photo: John T. Stemple.

14 October 2017 | Lakewood, Colorado. This afternoon the Colorado Aviation Historical Society (CAHS) held the organization’s 48th Annual Colorado Aviation Hall Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony at the Lakewood Country Club in Lakewood, Colorado.

Approximately 150 persons gathered to posthumously honor the inductees, which included 10 Coloradans who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) or Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. (Author’s note: Thanks to a family photograph, another RCAF-Coloradan was discovered immediately prior to the event and will be honored in 2018.)

Marlon DeWitt Green when serving as a U.S. Air Force pilot circa 1948. Photo: USAF.

Also inducted was Marlon DeWitt Green, the first Black airline pilot in the United States. Mr. Green likewise hailed from Colorado and successfully overcame racial discrimination on the path to achieving his dream of piloting commercial airliners with Continental Airlines. Additionally, near the end of the program, Federal Aviation Administration representatives from the Denver Flight Standards District Office announced the facility’s “50-Year Master Pilot Award” recipients: Johnny Pinell and Robert Deline.

Bagpiper piping Amazing Grace.
Photo: John T. Stemple.

Among the assemblage were members of The Royal Canadian Legion/La Légion royale Canadienne, Royal Air Force Historical Society, The Royal British Legion, Civil Air Patrol, Air Force Association, Commemorative Air Force, Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, and Honorary Order of Kentucky Colonels. Additionally, a number of CAHS Laureates were present, as was a Tuskegee Airman who wore his Congressional Gold Medal.

Stéphane Lessard, Consul General of Canada in Denver. Photo: Government of Canada/Gouvernement du Canada.

Notables in attendance included Stéphane Lessard, Consul General of Canada/Consulat général du Canada in Denver, Major-General Christopher Coates, who is the Royal Canadian Air Force’s senior officer at NORAD Headquarters and Director of Operations, and 4 relatives of the deceased RCAF and RAF airmen.

Family members join Karl Kjarsgaard, Consul General Lessard, Major-General Coates, and Lance Barber at the podium. Photo: John T. Stemple.

The RCAF and RAF honorees are the following: Luke Elbert Allen (RAF); Frank Raymond Boyles (RAF); James Campbell Davie (RCAF); Billy Orin Gates (RCAF); LeRoy Gover (RAF); Robert Henry Hendrix (RCAF); Clyde Homer Jay, Jr. (RCAF); Frederick Holbrook Mahn (RCAF); James Christian Nelson (RAF), and Richard Earl Todd (RCAF).

Consul General of Canada in Denver Stéphane Lessard and Karl Kjarsgaard confer at the BCMC display table. Photo: John T. Stemple.

The principal sponsor of the RCAF and RAF inductees is a Lifetime Member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association (RCAFA).

As a supplement to sponsorship he designed and supplied a large memorial plaque, which is now displaying inside the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, and flag displays. Mr. Karl Kjarsgaard, who is also an RCAFA member and a retired Air Canada Boeing 767 Captain, and Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC) were cosponsors.

RCAF Crest seal.
Photo: John T. Stemple.

Attached to the donated black marble plaque is an RCAF crest centerpiece. This attachment was fashioned from aluminum of RCAF Halifax bomber LW682, which was operated by 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron and shot down on the night of 12-13 May 1944. Salvageable metal from this bomber was secured by BCMC and Halifax 57 Rescue (Canada) and their partners after the aeroplane and aircrew, who were killed-in-action, were recovered from the boggy crash site. The crew were given full honors in 1997 during burial at Geraardsbergen (Grammont) Communal Cemetery in East Flanders, Belgium.

Lieutenant-General Michael J. Hood.
Photo: RCAF.

Kimberly Lewis, the Consular Program Manager at the Canadian Consulate in Denver.
Photo: Courtesy of Kimberly Lewis.

In his concluding comments, Karl Kjarsgaard publicly thanked Lieutenant-General Michael Hood, Commander of the RCAF, for authorizing the attendance of Major-General Coates.

Gratitude was also expressed for the timely and invaluable research undertaken by Kimberly Lewis, Consular Program Manager/Gestionnaire du programme consulaire of the Canadian Consulate in Denver. Her efforts enabled organizers to locate relatives of the airmen.

Ms. Susan Gale.
Photo: John T. Stemple.

Notably, local residents Susan and Michael Gale provided critical logistical and supportive work for the BCMC team. Furthermore, the Halifax Aircraft Network provided archival video and Violet M. Hogan contributed critical financial support and encouragement.

Flag displays.

Consul General Stéphane Lessard, Major-General Christopher Coates, and other attendees were moved by Karl Kjarsgaard’s poignant presentation.

In remarks afterward, Major-General Coates voiced his support for the ongoing BCMC initiatives that are intended to obtain belated recognition for the RCAF and RAF Americans who flew and fought as members of Canadian and British aircrews during Second World War.

Karl Kjarsgaard and Counsul General Stéphane Lessard, and Major-General Christopher Coates. Photo: John T. Stemple.

Both VIPs were greatly impressed with the plaque and spoke about the ties that bind the two nations together as they jointly labor to preserve democracy and defend North America.

Due to considerable audience interest, Lance Barber, President of CAHS, plans to reserve several large display panels for promotion of RCAF-Coloradan and RAF-Coloradan history at the 2018 event.

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The author (John T. Stemple) thanks the Colorado Aviation Historical Society, Bomber Command Museum of Canada, Counsul General Stéphane Lessard, Major-General Christopher Coates, Kimberly Lewis, Susan and Michael Gale, and the Halifax Aircraft Network for their gracious assistance and cooperation.

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Honoring the Colorado airmen who joined WWII even before their country did