Golden Age of Aviation
Bowman Field Aviation & Military Heritage Festival to promote airfield
Vintage aircraft, military vehicles to highlight event
October 2017 Cover
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (October 2017) – Retired Brig. Gen. Gene Spicer of Commiskey, Ind., bought his first vintage World War II-era jeep in 1988. It wouldn’t be his last.
Spicer now owns more military vehicles than he can remember, when asked how many. “I’ve got five or six that I take to shows and a bunch more out there that haven’t been restored yet,” said Spicer, 87, a retired Korean War veteran and high school agriculture teacher. He has spent his retirement years farming in Jennings County, Ind., wintering in Arizona with his wife, Carolyn, and collecting and restoring military vehicles with his two sons, Jeff, 51, and Raymond, 52.
Of the 12 vintage military vehicles he owns, his prized possessions include a 1952 Willys M38A1 jeep; a WC51 Dodge 3/4 ton weapons carrier; a 1942 GMC CCKW 21/2 ton U.S. Army cargo truck; and a 1942 Ford GPW jeep that he is still restoring. He also is known for owning a Ford GTB “Burma Jeep” cargo hauler that can be documented as having been built at the Louisville Ford Plant in 1942, however, he said the engine blew a couple of weeks ago and needs repairs. The “Burma Jeep” was produced during World War II and was used primarily by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the Pacific.
Oct. 14-15 in Louisville, Ky.
Location: Bowman Field, 2810 Taylorsville, Rd. Featuring vintage military vehicles, vintage aircraft, exhibits, demonstrations, airplane rides, live music, eight food, craft beer and bourbon trucks
Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday;
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $10 adults, $5 children ages
6-12. Under 6 free.
Information: (502) 602-4412 or visit www.BowmanAviationFest.com
10:30 a.m.: Men’s Choir from the Southeast Christian Church
11:15 a.m.: Ladies of Liberty
Noon: Opening Ceremony with Presentation of Colors and National Anthem
1 p.m.: Ladies of Liberty
3 p.m.: USO Canteen Concert and Dance with the Don Krekel Orchestra
10 a.m.: Ladies of Liberty
Noon: Opening Ceremony with Presentation of Colors and National Anthem
1 p.m.: Ladies of Liberty
2 p.m.: The Dandies Dance Party
Flagship Detroit DC-3 (will be selling rides both days)
B-25 Mitchell bomber
WWII L-4 Reconnaissance plane
YAK 25 fighter
Cessna 170 vintage “tail dragger”
WACO Bi-plane (will be selling rides both days)
Stearman Navy Trainer
Beechcraft Twin Beech
Piper “Goldfinger” plane
Carbon Cub pontoon plane
Civil Air Patrol Cessna 150
Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) - 10-12 aircraft
WWII era reconnaissance planes - US Army Air Corps- 2
Programs in Administration Building lobby
(Schedule is on website)
Radio drama: live performance
The History of Bowman Field: talk and video
World War II newsreels on video
James Goodall: a first-person interpretation of Gen. George Patton
“Doe-si-Doe in the Sky:” video and talk about early helicopter pilot training
“American Uniforms:” modeling of WWI and WWII American Uniforms narrated by Kevin Combs II
“Whirly Girls:” Helicopter Pilots in 21st Century
Allied Nations Uniforms - WWI and WWII
American Commercial Barge Lines/Jeff Boat/Howard Steamboat Museum
American Red Cross
Bowman Field Friends
Carrier Pigeon Service
Civil Air Patrol
Desmond Doss Exhibit
Experimental Aviation Association
Honor Flight Bluegrass
James Wheeler, DDS - Vintage miniature aircraft
Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs
Kentucky Wounded Heroes & Vietnam War Exhibit
KILROY and 14th Armored Recreations
Ladies 4 Liberty
Louisville Life Boat Station
Mario Mapid/Ford Motor Company
Oldham County Historical Society
Radio Controlled Remote Aircraft
Rosie the Riveter
Timeline of Exhibits - WWII - Afghanistan
University of Louisville Dental School - historical exhibit and veterans programs
US Army Corps of Engineers
US Coast Guard
US Navy Sea Cadets
Veterans Sign Up
Women in Aviation
WWII Anti Aircraft Shell Casings
82nd Airborne Reenactment
Kentucky Chapter, 99s
Get It on a Bun at Bootys
Red Top Gourmet Dogs
Cookie Cabin (Ice Cream & Cookie Treats)
Fresh Out the Box (Saturday only)
Kentucky Taco Co. (Sunday only)
The Blue Crab (Sunday Only)
Spicer is one of the more notable collectors of military vehicles in southern Indiana who participates in dozens of shows each year as a member of the Louisville, Ky., and southern Indiana chapter of KILROY, a military vehicles collectors club. KILROY was formed in 1990 as an affiliate of the 10,000-member strong national Military Vehicle Preservation Association and today boasts about 35 members, according to president Corey Helm. The group’s mission is “to provide an international organization for military vehicle enthusiasts and the preservation and display of historic military transport.”
Many of the group’s members will join Spicer in displaying their vehicles at the inaugural Bowman Field Aviation & Military Heritage Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14-15, at Bowman Field, 2810 Taylorsville Rd. in Louisville, Ky. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The festival is actually a merger of two previous similar events in the past two years at the airfield, but this year’s event promises to be even bigger, with many more attractions by combining the previous “Spirit of ’45” festival with last year’s inaugural Bowman Field Heritage Foundation event, according to organizer Dell Courtney.
“We have a whole group of people working to bring this festival to Bowman Field, and it’s going to be great,” said Courtney, who is organizing the effort with her husband, Fred.
In addition to multiple displays and demonstrations and military vehicles, the event will feature tours and aerial performances by the Vintage War Birds aircraft group based at Bowman Field, rides in the Flagship Detroit DC-3 restored aircraft, a fun run, live entertainment by various singing groups, along with eight food, bourbon and craft beer trucks. One unique feature will be a radio show written specifically for this festival that centers on the invasion of Italy in 1943, during which women guided some of the attack planes via radio.
The radio drama will be aired for visitors in the Administration Building at Bowman Field.
Much of the festival is geared toward education and promotion of aviation to youth as well as adults. Proceeds of the festival will benefit the Bowman Field Aviation Heritage Foundation and the Honor Flight Bluegrass. The Foundation’s mission is to protect and promote Bowman Field and its aviation heritage, while the Honor Flight Bluegrass works to fly World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.
Courtney says the weekend-long festival will be family friendly and offer lots of activities for children and adults. “We think this is a golden opportunity to showcase Bowman Field – not only for its role during World War II but also its place in our community for its civilian history. It was actually an Army base with barracks there during the war. Army nurses trained there and flew out of Bowman Field when they left to go overseas.”
Festival planners this year expanded the exhibits and displays by going all the way back to World War I, since next year on Nov. 11 the nation will mark the centennial of the armistice that was signed to end that conflict.
Courtney said the festival also is “a great opportunity for the two groups to begin working together as we move toward planning an event in 2019 to mark the 100th anniversary of Bowman Field.”
Courtney praised the volunteer groups for their hard work in organizing such a large event, saying, “The community has really come together to make this happen. It’s one of the most extraordinary events that Fred and I have ever been associated with.”
Helm, 57, of New Albany, Ind., said he became involved with the KILROY group when he purchased and restored a 1944 Willys MB ¼ ton jeep. He participates as a tribute to his father, who served in the U.S. Navy in the Korean War, and to his father-in-law, Richard Callahan of Dixon, Ill., who also served in the war.
He directs the club’s busy schedule of appearances each year throughout the region, including the annual Veterans’ Day Parade in downtown Louisville.
Trimble County, Ky., resident Jeff Thoke also participates with the group, displaying his World War II-era jeep. He also organizes the annual Veterans Festival and parade in New Castle, Ky., where he works as the New Castle Main Street Program director.
Photo courtesy of Blake Butler
The Flagship Detroit DC-3, based in Shelbyville, Tenn., will be available for tours and rides for those who join the foundation. It is the oldest Douglas DC-3 still flying.
In addition, Thoke has been instrumental in locating area World War II veterans and getting them involved in the annual Honor Flights to Washington, D.C. This past summer, he began parking his jeep in various towns to help promote the program and identify eligible veterans.
Spicer, meantime, spends much of his time scouting the Internet for vintage military vehicles and parts or out in his shop restoring them. He has three large trailers to haul the vehicles to shows, with the help of his sons.
Spicer is not only well known to military vehicles enthusiasts and collectors throughout the area, but also to dozens of former high school students who had him as their teacher. After a career of serving in the Army, including action in Korea from 1951-52, Spicer returned home to farm and to work at the Madison State Hospital in maintenance for a while until a co-worker urged him to apply to college. He was accepted at the University of Kentucky at age 26 and earned bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in education so he could teach. He taught for 23 years in several schools, beginning in eastern Kentucky and eventually moving back home to southern Indiana, and finally landing at Madison Consolidated High School, where he retired in 1988.
Photo by Don Ward
The Administration Building at Bowman Field will be the center of activity at the upcoming Aviation Festival.
All the while, he stayed active in the National Guard, moving from unit to unit in southern Indiana in recent years and getting a promotion at every move, he said. By the time he retired from the Guard, he had reached the level of Brigadier General.
Spicer says he enjoys participating in military shows and the reaction he receives from spectators. “When some ol’ boy comes by and says, ‘I drove one of those in World War II,’ it gives me a good feeling that I helped bring back some memories for those guys. I’m proud of my vehicles and like to show them off.’
Spicer said he also enjoys seeing the children’s faces when they come by to visit his display. “Some collectors won’t let people get in their vehicles, but I like to let the kids climb all over mine and have fun doing it. My lawyer friends warned me that I am risking a liability lawsuit if someone gets on them and gets hurt, but I say that if that happens, then bring it on, because I want people to enjoy them.”
Spicer has occasionally been asked to allow his vehicles to be used in movie or other special events. Just last year, Spicer attended the premiere of the movie “Operation Dunkirk,” which included scenes shot at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh, Ind., that featured three of his military vehicles. “We went up to Franklin, Ind., for the premiere, and they gave us a screen credit at the end of the movie.”
In 2012, Spicer was chosen to serve as grand marshal of the annual Madison Regatta Parade, and he drove down Main Street driving one of his prized military jeeps.
Photo by Don Ward
Pat MacDonald, president of the Bowman Field Aviation Heritage Foundation, poses at the airfield.
While vintage military vehicles will be on display in abundance at the upcoming festival, they are not the only attraction. Vintage aircraft will be displayed by the Vintage War Birds. This is a large collection of aviators from both civilian and military backgrounds and has become an important and vibrant part of educating the nation’s future pilots, according to Jeff Daus, one of three founders of the group back in 2010.
The festival is being sponsored by Humana Military, Kentucky Veterans Program Trust Fund, Beyond Band of Brothers Tours, Four Roses, Jean Frazier, Independent Pilots Association, AARP, Dick Wilson and Mary Romelfanger.
A retired U.S. Navy fighter pilot who served two tours in Desert Storm, Daus now flies for UPS and promotes aviation to adults and children alike through the many programs, such as Flight Club 502 and others, held at the club’s 14,000-square-foot hangar at Bowman.
“We’re in a crisis because we cannot get kids into aviation, and over the next five to 10 years we have to get kids involved,” said Daus, 55. “So for us, that’s what this festival is all about. It’s about bridging the past to the future of aviation.”
Daus said UPS has 15,000 pilots but loses 1,000 a year to retirement. “We are the ninth largest airline in the world and the youngest airline, and our average age of pilots is 54. So we need to stimulate interest in aviation among our youth.”
Daus said his organization funds the fuel for flights and instructors for many youths. His group raises money from private donors to pay for the education and flight time.
The Vintage War Birds members will be managing the air operations at the festival and will feature a variety of military and historic civilian aircraft, Daus said. This includes Russian Yak airplanes, a British trainer, a German war plane, a B-25 coming from St. Louis and, of course, the aforementioned Flagship Detroit DC-3.
The latter aircraft will be flown to Louisville from its home base in Shelbyville, Tenn., by pilot Blake Butler, one of six pilots who fly it. He will give rides in the aircraft to those who join the nonprofit Flagship Detroit Foundation for a fee of $100. He said the foundation’s mission is to preserve the legacy of the DC-3 and promote the history of commercial aviation.
“We can take up 15 people at a time, depending on temperature, wind and fuel level,” said Butler, 59, a retired engineer for an electric company.
The vintage aircraft is the oldest Douglas DC-3 aircraft still in operation and is a former American Airlines passenger plane that once traveled through Louisville back in the late 1930s and ’40s. Today, the plane is owned by George Dennis, a former American Airlines pilot, after having had several previous owners.
The DC-3 was the civilian version of the aircraft known in the military as the C-47, which saw heavy use during World War II, transporting both cargo and troops. Butler said this airplane was never used in the military but always a civilian passenger plane. It’s most famous passenger was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He estimated that there are about 300 DC-3s still flying.
Pat MacDonald is a Louisville pilot who serves as president of the Bowman Field Aviation Heritage Foundation and has been instrumental in planning the festival, since his foundation will receive some of the proceeds. His group works to preserve the airfield’s heritage and encourage the community to visit, experience and learn from it.
After holding its inaugural aviation festival last year, the foundation board decided it was a logical move to merge with the Spirit of ’45 group to plan a joint event this year. Established in 2009, the foundation is now working toward a major celebration for the airfield’s 100th birthday in 2019. Although Bowman Field was officially chartered on May 20, 1920, flights began coming and going there in 1919, so the centennial celebration is being planned for 2019, Courtney said.
MacDonald said the foundation recently began doing business as “Bowman Field Friends” and will solicit memberships in the group at the festival. Just under 100 members are now in the group, he said.
Although the Louisville Regional Airport Authority takes care of the operation and maintenance at the airfield, the Friends group works to preserve and interpret the heritage and promote educational events and flight training for adults and youth. A small museum of sorts is located inside the Administration Building on Taylorsville Road. The building will be the main focus of the upcoming festival, with displays both inside and outside on the tarmac and in the adjacent Central American Airways Hangar, he said.
“We are proud to have aircraft from the 1930s to present day, both civilian and military, plus helicopters and home builds. Some are based here and some are flying in from other places,” said MacDonald, 51, a local entrepreneur.
He expects anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 spectators, “depending on the weather.”
Tickets to the festival are $10 adults, $5 for those under 16 and free for those under 5. Admission for veterans is free with identification.
Back to October 2017 Articles.