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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sikeston, MO Veterans Park Memorializes Area's Aviation and Military History

By Carmelo Turdo
The Aero Experience joined a group of St. Louis aviators on a flight to Sikeston, MO Sunday for lunch at Lambert's Cafe, the Home of Throwed Rolls, and to visit the nearby Veterans Park. The park 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. The grounds also have historic significance, representing 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, Flags and Standards Commemorative Plaque, Sikeston Lions Club Pavilion 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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Spectacular and awesome. Thank you. As a member of the Veteran’s Park Board, we are proud of our Park. You did an excellent job highlighting the Park. Please feel free to email us for any additional information. We would love you to assist us in preparing a brochure about our Park. Please drop me a line.
Thank you again.
Pete Burns