Beginning Nov. 6, Miami will honor its Spartan roots as it hosts a two-day tribute to aviators who trained in Miami for entry into World War II.
At the heart of the event is the 6th annual British Flyers Remembrance ceremony honoring 15 Royal Air Force pilots who died in training accidents while attending the Number 3 British Flying Training School, a Miami branch of the Spartan School of Aeronautics that operated in the early 1940’s. Each were interred in the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Cemetery. The youngest was 17 years old when laid to rest here – 4,575 miles from his home in England. The ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m., Nov. 7, at the G.A.R. Cemetery.
Flanking the remembrance ceremony are events that honor Spartan alumnus Col. Gail “Hal” Halvorsen. Halvorsen, who left his Utah home and sugar beet farm for military service, earned his wings in Miami, and went on to become a legendary humanitarian. Through a single act of kindness, Halvorsen initiated
what came to be known as “Operation Little Vittles” – an airdrop project that put more than two million pounds of chocolate into the hands of starving children in eastern Berlin. It earned him the moniker “The Candy Bomber,” a Congressional Gold Medal and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Col. Halvorsen will be the guest of honor at “meet and greet” slated for 6 p.m., Nov. 6, at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful where a showing of a documentary entitled “The Candy Bomber” produced by the University of Utah’s KUED7. Halvorsen, a published author, will also greet the public at a book signing at Chapters Book Store where his book, “The Berlin Candy Bomber,” will be available for sale.
“Even if you have never had an interest in history, I feel that our British Flyers Remembrance Ceremony inspires all who attend,” said Nancy Bro, G.A.R. Cemetery office manager and an organizer of the event. “It is a great honor for us to have so many individuals and organizations join us as we commemorate the cadets that lost their lives while training and have been laid to rest here at the G.A.R. Cemetery.”
Local veterans from the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, and the Marine Corps League, will participate in this year’s remembrance ceremony as will the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums who will perform a musical tribute to honor the British flyers. Representatives of the Royal Air Force, Royal British Legion, and the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology also plan to attend the ceremony this year.
An additional honored guest at the upcoming ceremony is Jill Davies, daughter of British pilot Edward Owen “Ted” Hawkes. Hawkes trained with the Royal Air Force in Miami as part of the 24th class and went on to fly in World War II.
“The cadets interred at G.A.R. Cemetery have become part of the G.A.R. and City of Miami family,” said cemetery director Kim Horn. “We continue to hold the yearly ceremonies to honor and remember them and also the many other British and American Cadets that trained in Miami. Our community played an important part in the history of WWII and the sacrifices of the military personnel who trained at B.F.T.S.#3 are not forgotten here.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about the ceremony can contact the City of Miami G.A.R. Cemetery at (918) 541-2288. More information about the ceremony is also available at www.miamiokla.net.