Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Frontier flight is the focus of an exhibit recently installed at the Frontier Army Museum.
Fayelee Overman, FAM museum technician, said she first became interested in the subject more than a year ago when she spoke with Kelvin Crow, Combined Arms Center command historian, about the first unofficial airfield on post behind Post Theater.
Later, in the fall of 2019, she said her interest was heightened even more when a group of airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., visited the museum and she took them on a tour through the museum, highlighting early flight history of the Air Force and how it began with the Army.
“They were studying Benjamin Foulois (U.S. Army general who flew the first military plane purchased from the Wright Brothers), and he was here on post,” Overman said. “He was the one that established that first unofficial airfield, so they were really focusing on trying to learn their own history. That really sparked my interest in (putting together) this exhibit.”
Overman said she was surprised at the lack of information available about aviation on Fort Leavenworth.
“Fort Leavenworth didn’t become the huge aviation center that everyone thought it would, but there’s some really great history that I don’t think has really been told about here,” she said.
The exhibit features a 3rd Staff Squadron badge; an oxygen mask, flight helmet, boots and gloves used by Army Air Forces during World War II; early World War II officer’s collar patches featuring the winged propeller insignia worn on the Army Air Corps officer’s summer khaki uniforms; an Aviation Corps collar disc with a winged propeller design that was assigned to enlisted aviation service collar devices in 1918; and a 1942 officer’s coat that belonged to Judge Arthur Stanley Jr., who served as an officer in the Army Air Forces in World War II.
The exhibit includes informational panels highlighting key points in the Army aviation timeline from 1861 to 1947, frontier flight and early flight at Fort Leavenworth and Sherman Army Airfield, as well as newspaper clippings from The Leavenworth Times and The Fort Leavenworth News. It features early aviators at Fort Leavenworth, including former General of the Army and General of the Air Force Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold; Foulois; “Father of the U.S. Air Force” Maj. Gen. Billy Mitchell; C.W. Parker, who created air shows in surrounding areas of Leavenworth in the early 1900s; and Parker’s hired pilot for the air shows, Gastone Laconne.
“I hope (with this exhibit) that patrons can learn about this untold story here on post about early aviation,” Overman said. “I hope they can get a greater appreciation for those efforts that were put up here.”
FAM is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The exhibit is also available as a virtual tour on the FAM website at https://history.army.mil/museums/TRADOC/frontier-army-museum/. The website also has a virtual program for children highlighting early flight, early military drones and more.