By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Out of the Morgue
Local weekly details the fight for a cure and the mysterious loss of a fighter pilot in 1944
otm vlc thunderbolt-fighter.gif
A Thunderbolt fighter, which Lt. Harold Haile Macurdy was reported to be piloting when he was reported missing in action over Europe in 1944. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Each week we’ll take a step back into the history of Great Bend through the eyes of reporters past. We’ll reacquaint you with what went into creating the Great Bend of today, and do our best to update you on what “the rest of the story” turned out to be.

During the 1940s, Great Bend was a town that had more than one newspaper.  The Great Bend Herald was a weekly paper located just a block away from the Tribune at 2013 Lakin St.  It was published every Friday morning, with an annual subscription of $1.50 (plus sales tax in Kansas).  Harold A Hammond was the owner, editor and publisher, and the paper was a member of the Kansas Press Association.
According to a story in the Lawrence Journal World from 1938,
“Hammond, past president of the Kansas Press Association, bought the Great Bend paper from Louis G. Nixon of Pawnee Rock, Kan.”  
To purchase the paper, he sold his interests in the Kiowa News-Review and Record.  
According to the 1940 census, he was born in 1900 in Nebraska, and lived at 2548 McBride Pkwy. with his wife, Mabel, and two daughters, Clarice, 15, and Helen, 13, and two sons, Donald, 8, and Dean, 6.  
According to Karen Neuforth at the Barton County Historical Museum, Hammond died Jan 26, 1957.  It was around that time the Great Bend Herald became the Great Bend Herald Press.  His widow, Mabel, went on to marry Dr. Clark Zugg of Barton County.  The last issue on record of the Great Bend Herald Press was Aug. 25, 1962.

What ever happened to Harold Macurdy?
On the front page of the Herald’s Feb. 18, 1944 edition, readers learned that Lt. Harold Haile Macurdy was awarded the second oak leaf cluster to the Air Medal.  
The Great Bend high school graduate, whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Macurdy lived at 3015 Broadway, was missing in action.
“Lt. Macurdy has been reported missing in action over Europe.  Haile a graduate of Great Bend high school is 21 years old.  He piloted a Thunderbolt fighter.”  
We asked  Neuforth to see what she could discover about Lt. Macurdy.  The now declassified Missing Air Crew Report states the incident happened on Jan. 29, 1944 at 11:10.
According to the Statement of Witness written by Roland J. Dufresne, 1st Lt. Air Corps Pilot, 357th Fi Sq.:

“On 29 Jan. 1944, I was yellow flight leader on a ramrod mission over enemy territory when 1st Lt. Harold H. Macurdy and 1st Lt. Chauncey H. Rankin tacked on to my flight as numbers 3 and 4, as my 3 and 4 men had aborted.
“We were escorting a B-17 which was heading home at 10,000 feet, when I saw two Me-109’s going up to attack the B-17.  I made an attack on the enemy aircraft, but when they dove and headed inland, I turned back to the B-17 with my whole flight.  
“A few seconds later one Me-109 flew under us and the 3 and 4 men in my flight dove to attack same.  Four FW-190’s attacked me and I went into the overcast with my wingman.   Later 1st Lt. Harold H. Macurdy called saying “he was badly damaged and low on gas and couldn’t make it back.”
“I didn’t hear from 1st Lt. Chauncey H. Rankin.”
Air Corps Capt. W.H. Rush, Senior Flying Control Officer, reported when Lt. Macurdy failed to return to base with the 358th Fighter Squadron, every effort was made to contact him on channels “a”, “b”, “c”, and “d”.

Macurdy first enlisted with the Royal Air Force and was stationed at Brandon, Manitoba, for preliminary training, according to a Wed., Aug. 13, 1941 edition of the Kansas City Star.  
Lt. Macurdy surfaces again later in the Jan. 17, 1960 edition of the Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)  A photo of him appears, surrounded by classmates in the 521st Field Training Detachment at the Portland Air Base.  They were being taught about the hydraulic reservoir of the F-102A.
Again in the April 17, 1966 edition of the Great Bend Tribune, a photo accompanies the story that Lt. Col. Macurdy was presented the Air Force Commendation Medal on April 12 for meritorious service.  
The story included a brief background, that he had attended the University of Panama, majoring in foreign languages, and was a 20 year veteran who began his career in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and during World War II he was credited with four and one-half enemy aircraft destroyed.  He had been decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Soldiers Medal and the Purple Heart.  He, his wife and children were listed as living in McFarland, Wis., and his parents were still listed at the family home on Broadway in Great Bend.
But we could find no information of how Macurdy was found or made his way back to base.  Neuforth discovered he had become a U.S. Air Force Col., serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Treating disease
  Bev Komarek, Executive Director at the BCHM, remembers how frightening polio was when she was a child.  No one knew how it was transmitted, she said, so parents were cautious about letting their children go swimming, thinking proximity to the pool might have something to do with it.
In the Feb. 18.1944 edition of the Herald, a story appeared about Barton County’s record contribution to the March of Dimes campaign to fight infantile paralysis (polio).
“A lot of Barton County silver coins -- 26,121-- joined the March of Dimes recently conducted nationally, Jack Morrison Jr., county chairman reports. The infantile paralysis annual campaign totaled $2,612.11 even without the coil cards sent direct to Washington, which will be credited later.”

According to the story, the 1944 quota for Barton County had only been $1,500, which was double the year before’s contribution of $760.
“Half of the funds raised will remain in Barton County to be used to combat the dread malady.”
A sister at St. Rose Hospital had traveled to Minnesota to be trained in the Kenny method of treatment.
“The military personnel at the Great Bend Army Air Field took considerable interest in the drive and contributed $182.33 of the amount credited to Barton County.”
A story courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society describes the Kenny method as one that used hot packs and encouraged gentle movements to “reteach” stiff limbs to move again.  “Her method re-taught patients how to use limbs that had been only temporarily paralyzed by the virus. This revolutionized the treatment of polio.”
Prior to this treatment, patients infected with the virus had a much different outlook.  
“This damage usually caused signs of paralysis in a person’s legs. It could also affect the arms, trunk, or diaphragm. Before Sister Kenny, doctors put splints and braces on affected limbs and occasionally operated. They used a respirator called an iron lung to help patients breathe.”
On Dec. 28, 1950, the local Eagles club presented St. Rose hospital with a check for $1,750.00 to pay in full for a double iron lung.  The BCHM has it on display as part of their permanent collection.  Luckily, the bacteria that caused polio was discovered in 1955  and  soon after the polio vaccine was widely available.   As of November 2012, when the MHS story was written, the Kenny Institute remains a prominent center for rehabilitation treatment and research in Minnesota.