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Restoration of B-29 memorial needed
Committee hopes to get city support to renovate WW II monument
new deh b-29 memorial restoration pic
There is an effort underway to restore the B-29 Memorial Plaza at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The memorial was dedicated in 2000. - photo by Tribune file photo

City Council meets Monday night

The Great Bend City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the City Office, 1209 Williams. The agenda includes the resignation of Council Member Edwin Roberts, the restoration and maintenance of the B-29 Memorial, and U.S. 281-Rail Road Avenue realignment project.

 The Great Bend B-29 Memorial Plaza was dedicated in 2000 With much fanfare. The monument was a gleaming tribute to the city’s rich World War II heritage.
However, the years since that opening have not been good to the city-owned historical marker, which stands at the entrance to the Great Bend Municipal Airport. It has experienced significant deterioration.
“The town and the area need to be proud of what these people did,” said B-29 Memorial Plaza Committee Chairperson Beverly Komarek of the dedicated individuals who made it happen, as well as the veterans recognized by the installation. “This was a giant project.”
Now, the committee wants to see that this deterioration is reversed. Komarek will go before the City Council Monday night to ask for help in restoring it to its original glory. The council meets at 7:30 p.m. in the City Office, 1209 Williams.
The large, intersecting steel arches that make up the memorial’s frame are starting to lose paint. And, the protective coating has worn off some of the bronze plaques in the center allowing them to oxidize and become them illegible.
“It’s been sitting out in the elements for 10 years,” Komarek said. So, naturally, there is going to be some wear and tear.
“Something has to be done,” said airport Manager Martin Miller. “Now’s the time. This would be money well spent.”
The memorial is reaching the point where it may lose its appeal to tourists, he said. This is sad since it is a showpiece for the area and is frequented by visitors of all ages, including veterans.
So, the committee, with funds remaining from the $350,000 it originally raised for the project, is proposing to split the cost half and half with the city to make the needed repairs, and provide maintenance and preservation training.
The committee sent requests for proposals to qualified preservation experts to determine the scope and costs.  The lone qualified bid came from Mayda Jensen Conservation Services of Omaha, Neb., and it outlined two methods of restoration totaling $36,100 or $26,900, depending upon the extent of the work done.
Since the dedication, “no significant expense or effort has been made to preserve the memorial,” a letter from the committee to the city reads. “City maintenance of the memorial has been limited to mowing and trimming the grass, flag replacement, and lighting repairs.”
Although the committee does not own or operate this memorial, it voted at its meeting in December to propose cost-sharing option. “This will essentially deplete the Committee’s funds, but it will serve to help restore this monument, and to provide the City with the proper training to preserve and maintain the asset. Unless this restoration and preservation maintenance is achieved, the City will face much higher costs in the future,” the letter reads.
It is requesting that the city pay either $18,050 or $13,450, depending on the option selected.

Some history
Great Bend Municipal Airport was constructed in the early 1940s as a World War II Army Air Force Base to accommodate the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber.
The airfield included three intersecting 8,000-foot long paved runways, taxiways, aircraft park aprons, aircraft storage hangars, and several support facilities to include administrative buildings, barracks, and automobile access roads.
The men and women who contributed to the success of the war effort included combat crews, mechanics, armorers, cooks and clerks. Early in 1944, the 58th Bomb Wing took off from the airport runways.
Many of these folks stayed in the area. This influx forever changed the face of Great Bend.
After World War II, the airport was transferred to the City of Great Bend, and the city began to modify the facility to better serve civilian aviation.
The B-29 Memorial Plaza is dedicated to everyone involved in building, flying and providing support for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The memorial honors bomber crews, groups, and individuals on bronze plaques and bricks.
The plaza was dedicated in 2000. In 2004, the scale model B-29 sculpture was hung in the center.
Visitors are welcome 365 days a year. There is no admission charge.
For more information contact the Barton County Historical Museum at 620-793-5125.