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Dyess Celebrates Turning 50

By Joe Starkey



The ceremonies started with a short history of Dyess Air Force Base. Following the outbreak of the Korean crisis, Abilenians called for a military installation. Armed with 1,500 acres that used to be Tye Army Air Field {{more}} and determination, civic leaders besieged Washington, D.C., and Pentagon officials with their request for a military installation. Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt they meant business, Abilenians raised $893,000 to purchase an additional 3,500 acres to provide a home for the military base they hoped would be in Abilene. Several prominent men were instrumental in convincing authorities of the suitability of Abilene. Oliver Howard, the late W.P. Wright Sr. and others worked in the city to promote interest in the military facility. Together with Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and Congressman Omar Burleson, civil leaders persuaded military and civilian officials to put a military base in Abilene. After letters and visits had been exchanged, the Department of Defense announced in July 1952 Congress had approved the $32,273,000 needed in appropriations for constructing a base in Abilene. One requirement in the agreement whereby Abilene transferred the property to the government was that all buildings and structures be of a permanent nature. They did not want a recurrence of the disappearance of Tye Army Air Field and Camp Barkley with their tent cities. From the very start , the local community was interested in providing for the Air Force an exemplary relationship between the community and an Air Force base. Known as Abilene Air Force Base, the Strategic Air Command base was dedicated by the city fathers at the end of Abilene’s Diamond Jubilee April 15, 1956. On Dec. 6 that same year, the base was renamed Dyess Air Force Base in honor of Lt. Col. William Edwin Dyess. 7th Bomb Wing Commander Garrett Harencak opened the ceremonies by thanking Abilene for yet another gift to celebrate the enduring partnership between the Command and the City of Abilene. He continued by recognizing Abilene as a Key Member of Team Dyess – The community makes a difference in how well the warriors of Team Dyess perform. Edwin Dyess was a relentless and courageous warrior and those of Dyess continue with the same determination to defend our nation. The young warriors of Team Dyess will deliver the same victory over Terror the Ed Dyess did in WW II. Former Mayor Fred Lee Hugh remembered the National Defense Committee of Abilene and particularly Bob Wagstaff for negotiating the purchase of the property. The basic agreement was that Abilene would donate 5,000 acres and every building was to be permanent built of brick or stone. Too many of the people donating had vivid memories of the sudden disappearance of all the tents and Quonset huts of Camp Barkley. The last and very important part of the written agreement was that Abilene would be good neighbors to the base. Senator Lyndon Johnson backed the $32 million contract to build the base. It was the largest ever given at the time by the Dallas Contracting Office. Mayor Norm Archibald opened stating that we need more Heroes like Edwin Dyess to look up to so we can set our standards higher to become like them. He noted that LTC Dyess fought the Japanese in the air until supplies gave out, and then fought on foot until ordered to surrender at Bataan. Surviving the Bataan Death March, he escaped and continued a guerilla battle against the enemy. Returned to the United States and told that his service in the war zone was over, he volunteered to return. While training to return overseas, his aircraft caught fire and should have been abandoned, however, it was over a heavily populated area and he stayed with the aircraft to prevent it from crashing into homes or schools. He died in the crash but as Mayor Archibald said “He did not lose his life – he gave it.” He concluded by reading a proclamation proclaiming March 25, 2006 as a salute to LTC Dyess. Representative Randy Naugebauer recognized March as a Month Of Excellance for Dyess both in the performance of the base during several inspections and to Colonel Harencak and his wife, Tanya for earning the 2005 Air Combat Command General and Mrs. Jerome F. O’Malley Award. This award is presented annually to a military couple who epitomizes exemplary leadership for the nation, the Air Force and the local community in a key Air Force position. Admitting that going as the third or fourth speaker meant that most of the points in his speech had been made, representation Naugebauer told of the soldier he met while the soldier was recovering from wounds received in a firefight when an IED blew the bottom out of the Humvee and sent the soldier wounded to the ground inside the Humvee. He climbed back up to the 50 Caliber Machine Gun and returned fire until he passed out from his wounds. Thanking him for his service but searching for a better way to express the depth of graditude owed to the soldier, Representative Naugebauer was stopped by the soldier who looked back and said “I was just doing my job.” Vice Commander, Air Combat Command, LT Gen Will Fraser congratulated Team Dyess on their outstanding job, particularly in the last month. The P 40 Warhawk being dedicated is more than a replica – it is the Spirit of Courage shown by Ed Dyess and airmen of today – the Warrior Spirit. The 21st Pursuit Squadron received 75 new P-40s but after the first Japanese attack, only 25 remained. Then lieutantant Dyess named his plane “Kibosh” as in “put the kibosh on them or stop them in their tracks. Lt Dyess had two confirmed victories in Kibosh and many interdictions that stopped Japanese attacks on American ground troops. When interdicting Japanese supplies and troops became more important, Kibosh was fitted with homemade bomb racks and sunk a 12,000 ton transport, a 5,000 ton transport and 2 barges. Lt. Dyess came back with 180 bullet holes in Kibosh from ground fire. His ground crew improvised patches for the metal aircraft from the denium of their own uniforms. LTG Fraser finished stating that “decades separate our wars, that on Terror and WWII, but the same warrior spirit will prevail.” He thanked the citizens of Abilene for their critical support which enables Team Dyess to perform at the highest level.

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