CONSTRUCTION OF THE B-29 MEMORIAL PLAZA
The long-awaited groundbreaking for the B-29 Memorial Plaza was held September 2, 1999. This date was chosen because it marked the 54th anniversary of the formal surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. Those weilding shovels included: Kermit K. Thompson (representing those who built the B-29s); Lillian Papay, Delores Steadman and Betty Sloan (representing the civilian employees at Great Bend Army Air Field); Col. Jim Hall (USAF Retd., 19th Bomb Group); Joe McLaughlin (19th Bomb Group); Sal Bianchino (73rd Bomb Wing); Jesse Harris (58th Bomb Wing); Lonnie Wright (19th Bomb Group and GBAAF Gunnery School); Bob Kilburn (58th Bomb Wing); Steven Smith (GBAAF Base Unit); Joe Hampton (58th Bomb Wing and 20th Air Force); Kevin Wondra and Homer Bird (other veterans and donors).
By January 21, 2000, the earthwork, grading and site preparation for the B-29 Memorial Plaza were completed. Chuck Bartlett, Great Bend City Engineer, put the concrete construction project out for bids on January 25 and the sealed bids were opened on February 15. The Great Bend City Council ruled on the contract on February 21 and the contracts were let on March 1, 2000.
Purchase Orders for bronze plaques, sign lettering, dedication bricks and filler bricks were placed by mid-February. In June, construction of the Plaza was going 'full steam ahead'.
By the time the steel arches were delivered on June 20, 2000 (above, left), construction on sidewalks (above, right), the base for the B-29 model (below, left) and concrete benches (below, right) were well in hand.
Soon, crews from C.V. Cale were installing the arches (above), which were soon in place (below), waiting for bricks, plaques and the installation of the B-29 model.
Veterans and members of the B-29 Memorial Plaza Committee kept a close eye on the construction project. Left to right are pictured: Joe McLaughlin (19th Bomb Group), Sal Bianchino (500th Bomb Group) and Jesse Harris (444th Bomb Group).
Contact: B-29 Memorial