Battlefront: Oklahoma

Thousands of British pilots trained in Oklahoma during World War II at airfields in Miami, Ponca City, Tulsa, and (glider training) Vinita. Resources in Britain were exhausted by the war, including their hosting of enormous American air installations. Fifteen pilots died during training accidents at Miami and one in Tulsa. Miami resident George Draeger recalled: “One of the memories I have as a very small boy was when a couple of the flyers were walking down the sidewalk in front of our house. One of them asked mother who owned all the space between the houses. They build their houses right next to each other.”


Pictured top to bottom: 1) Miami resident Fantie Hill, who befriended many of the British airmen, tends their graves at Miami’s G.A.R. Cemetery. She did so from 1941-1982. 2) Training planes on the Miami runway in 1941. 3) The ghostly shell of a wartime Miami flight training hangar. 4) The Ponca City base, with hangars left and operations building right. 5) A British pilot named Davies, who trained in Miami. 6) Recent view of the British flyers’ portion of the G.A.R. Cemetery, where annual tributes to them still take place. 7) Fantie Hill’s own grave. The inscription invokes Britain’s famed wartime King George VI’s awarding of the King's Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom to her. 8) Post-war Miami reunions of the flyers continued well into the 2000s.


Courtesy Nancy Bro, Kim Horn, Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, Miami, Oklahoma.


British pilots training in Oklahoma during World War II prompted more than patriotic sentiments in some locals. Longtime Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Manager Tony Booth’s father and grandfather often hunted ducks in the Miami area during those times by pond jumping. Several times their patient, diligent duck stalking was disrupted by British pilots buzzing the ponds on low pass practice runs and scaring off all the ducks. The Booths’ verbal reactions are, fortunately, lost to history!

 

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Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.


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