The last of the World War II B-29 hangers at the Great Bend Municipal Airport has been near collapse for several years, and the recent storm just made things worse. Noting that it is a shame to see the landmark go, the Great Bend City Council Monday night authorized Stone Sand Company to raze the beleaguered historic structure.
The city has been working for two years to gain permission to tear down the dilapidated north hangar, including talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Kansas State Historical Preservation Alliance, City Attorney Bob Suelter said. “We went through all the hoops,” and finally the OK was given.
However, the high winds on the evening of Sept. 10 made the demolition of the hangar an issue that needs to be taken care of immediately. So, city officials decided they needed to proceed quicker than originally planned.
The contract with Nelson Stone is for $31,000. But, Suelter said that may not cover the entire project since the hanger shares a wall with Blizzard Energy which will have to be stabilized.
City Administrator Howard Partington said the city received some insurance money from damage done to the building about 10 years ago. This money can be used to demolish the hanger now.
This is the last of four hangars built to accommodate the massive B-29 Superfortress bombers during World War II. Two were destroyed by fire (one in the 1950s and one in the 1970s), and was torn down a few years ago.
The remaining large hangar at the airport was built during the war, but was not built for the B-29s. Still in use today, it housed smaller aircraft.
Great Bend Municipal Airport was constructed in the early 1940s as a World War II Army Air Force training base for B-29 bomber crews. The airfield included three intersecting 8,000-foot long paved runways, taxiways, aircraft park aprons, several support facilities and the hangers to accommodate the massive B-29s.
With crews and planes from Great Bend, Walker Army Air Field near Victoria, Pratt Army Air Field near Pratt and Smoky Hill Army Air Field near Salina the initial cadre of the 58th Bombardment Wing was formed. This was the first B-29 combat wing of the war and engaged in the first long-range strategic bombardment of the Japanese Home Islands beginning in March 1944 from bases in India.
After the war, the airport was transferred to the City of Great Bend, and the city began to modify the facility to better serve civilian aviation.
Located at the entrance to the Great Bend Municipal Airport, 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.