|By Carmelo Turdo|
We arrived in Sikeston at about 12:30 P.M. and took a look around the airport as we waited for the shuttle van from Lambert's Café to arrive. The early arrivals were already there, so we took some time to appreciate the interesting displays in the terminal.
Sikeston's Veterans Park is located adjacent to the airport, and it is conspicuous mostly because of the prominent F-4J Phantom II jet displayed at a rakish angle in its center. But there are more memorials and military equipment in the park than meet the eye, and the grounds also have historic significance in that they represent the community's contribution to the nation's World War II mobilization effort.
The history of Sikeston's contribution to the war can be gleaned from the informational plaques illustrated above. The park grounds were once part of Harvey Parks Airport, named for the late brother of Oliver Parks, Founder of Parks Air College civilian flying school still in operation in modern form in St. Louis. The airport was part of the Parks network of pilot training airfields located in the Midwest, and the units stationed there trained over 5,000 military pilots in Stearman and PT-19 primary trainers from late 1940 through 1944. Harris Field, in nearby Cape Girardeau, MO, added more military pilot training capability in Scott County. The plaque at right recognizes the efforts by the Sikeston Public Schools and community partners to raise more than enough funds through war bond sales and a public auction to purchase two B-25 Mitchell bombers. The city was given naming rights for the two bombers, and the names Sikeston Bulldog and Spirit of Sikeston were voted as the winners. Additionally, schools in Scott County raised funds for an air ambulance plane named Big Doc Scottie.
Just inside the park from the Harvey Parks Airport entrance are more area-specific markers, including the Blue Star Memorial, named veteran memorial benches, Sikeston Veteran WWI-Gulf War Memorial, and a memorial to Charlie Company, 1140th Engineer Battalion service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The military equipment displays represent those used by U.S. forces mostly after World War II. An M60 main battle tank, used from the 1960s through Desert Storm, is seen climbing a rocky hill in the park's center. The M101A1 105mm Light Howitzer is a later development of the gun brought into service during World War II. Down the walkway from the Howitzer is the F-4J Phantom II, the U.S. Navy fighter/bomber that flew off aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. This particular jet, outfitted with two 500lb. bombs, was used by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron during the 1970s. Behind the Phantom II is a Bell HUL-1 (UH-13P) Sioux utility helicopter used aboard U.S. Navy ships. It is a relative of the Bell 47 helicopters seen on the television series, M.A.S.H. Beside the helicopter is a 6,000lb solid steel anchor that would have been used on a World War II-era destroyer. Lastly, the pavilion illustrated was named for John F. "Frank" Ferrell (1919-2007), a World War II pilot trained at Harvey Parks Airport who later served as a Scott County Deputy Sheriff, volunteer fireman, Auxiliary Police Commander, Sikeston City Councilman and Sikeston Mayor.
The Aero Experience thanks the Tarlow family for the great time of fellowship and flying we enjoyed during the Sunday fly-in. Thanks also to the "I Fly St. Louis" Facebook group for promoting aviation in St. Louis and the Midwest. Of course, we also hope that this story will encourage you to have your own aero experience!