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New Plans, New Chairman For B-29 Museum Project

Source: Pratt Tribune , Jan. 26, 2009

By: Gale Rose

Pratt, Kan. - Memorabilia from the 29th Bomb Group will be a centerpiece for the proposed B-29 museum at the parachute shop at the former Pratt Army Air Field. The parachute shop will soon be listed on the state and national record of historic places.

The new chairman of the B-29 Museum Committee is Phillip Schultz and he has gathered a lot of memorabilia from all four World War II Army Air Bases in Kansas. That material will also be in the museum.

The 29th Bomb Group was the second of four bomb groups to train at the Pratt Army Air Field. The 29th Bomb Group has decided not to hold any more reunions and decided to donate their entire memorabilia collection to the Pratt B-29 Museum. Much of collection is original documents of their training mission in Pratt.

Other items include a B-29 Flight Manual that belonged to Army Air Corps Instructor Capt. Robert Shaw and letters written by a flight surgeon that were donated by his daughter. The material is from both flight crews and ground crews. Other memorabilia includes a turbo charger and a propeller hub for a B-29 Engine. Several people in Pratt have offered their memorabilia for the museum.

Schultz has interviewed some of the personnel that trained at the base including some that worked in the parachute building.

The memorabilia plus the donation from the 29th Bomb Wing will be housed in the proposed B-29 Museum in the parachute shop on the old air base that is now the Pratt Industrial Airport, said Jack McCawley, B-29 Museum committee member.

The process of getting the parachute building listed as a state and national historical site is nearly complete and should be finished in February. The building is pretty much original inside and hasn’t been modified much, Schultz said.

Once the building is registered as an historic site it will be eligible for grant money and tax credits for preservation.
The building is 30 by 60 feet with a portion that is 42 feet tall. The parachutes were hung out to dry in the building.

The four Kansas World War II Army airfields were at Pratt, Great Bend, Smoky Hill at Salina and Walker Air Base at Russell. Schultz’s memorabilia and the 29th Bomb Group memorabilia covers the history of all the air bases, Schultz said.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” Schultz said. “I spent 12 years collecting history on the air bases. It’s fascinating research what went on in that period of time.”

The parachute building is one of the few surviving original buildings at the airport. Two of the original five hangars still exist but one is scheduled for demolition because of age and weather deterioration. The other hangar is home to R & R Manufacturing and could hold two B-29s. Other surviving buildings include the concrete and steel storage buildings for the Norden Bomb Sights used in the B-29s for bombing missions. Work is underway to get those buildings preserved as well, Schultz said.

Much of the activity at the air base was secret including the Norden Bomb Sights. They were so valuable they were kept under lock and key in these special storage buildings when not in use.
The bomb groups at Pratt were the 29th, 40th, 346th and 497th and bomb groups.

These bomb groups were part of 58th bomb wing VH, 73rd bomb wing VH, 314th Bomb Wing VH and 316th Wing VH.

Schultz was an Army Specialist Five flight instructor and airframe and power plant mechanic at Russell.

For more information about the Pratt Army Air Field visit the web site at www.prattarmyairfield.com