It is an unfortunate coincidence that came only a couple weeks after the tremendous success of the Great Bend Airfest, an event celebrating the communities rich World War II heritage. The Great Bend City Council Monday night discussed the fate of last of the remaining WW II B-29 hangars at the Great Bend Municipal Airport.
The massive structure was one of four hangars built at the Great Bend Army Airfield as part of a facility to train Boeing B-29 crews. Those brave young men left here to fly missions over Japan and elsewhere, helping end the war.
The base itself became a major catalyst for change here on the home front. Many of those stationed at the installation became a part of Great Bend, changing the face of this town forever.
However, to everything there is a season. The old hanger has been deteriorating, becoming a dangerous eyesore. The severe winds on Sept. 10 stripped away a large swatch of the exterior and did other damage.
The city has been working for a of years to gain permission to tear it down. The storm made it an issue that needs to be taken care of immediately.
The council Monday night looked at contracting with Stone Sand Company to raze the historic building. It is doubtful that this was an easy decision for anyone on the council, but it was the only logical course of action given the circumstances.
Should the hangar have been preserved? Yes, but unfortunately that window closed decades ago.
Could more have been done to save it? Perhaps, but that would have been costly and needed to have been done long before now.
It is always sad to see a piece of history, especially one so close to the soul of this community, go away. It may be a small comfort, but we can rest easier knowing that the legacy of the hangar and the airbase is enshrined by the Barton County Historical Society and perpetuated by folks like those who believe events such as the airfest remain important.
One cannot look at Great Bend today and not see the influences of the army post. That is a proud heritage that doesn’t rely on one battered old hangar.
Rest in peace.