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WBC History Students Research Flying School


WBC senior Alan Williams of Paragould, Ark., presents his research on Charles Thiede, who was one of 42 servicemen killed while training at the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School.

Students from Williams Baptist College have been researching some history that is close to home. A WBC class in Arkansas history made its reports this week on the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School.

The students did much of their research and presented their final projects at the Wings of Honor Museum, which commemorates the history of the flying school. The museum is located at Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

The flying school trained some 5,000 pilots during World War II, and the Williams campus now sits on part of the former base. So, Daniel Spillman of the WBC history faculty decided to have his Arkansas history class focus of the WRAFS for a major project this semester.

"It helps students to study in a creative way that they enjoy, and it also highlights our rich local history," said Spillman. "I think it’s important for them to see that what happened here made a difference in the war effort around the world. Some of the men who trained here later flew important missions over Germany."

Spillman also expressed his gratitude for Harold Johnson, who is head of the museum’s board of directors. "It was an absolute pleasure to work with Mr. Johnson. He was enormously helpful to the students in finding primary documents about the air field."

Some of the students’ research turned up information not previously known to the museum, according to Spillman.

Among the topics covered by the students were biographies of several who served at the flying school, prisoners of war who were held at the base, and such structures as the old flight control tower and the Commandant’s House.

The Commandant’s House is now on the Williams campus and became the home of WBC’s founder, Dr. H.E. Williams, after the war. The house is currently undergoing preservation work to its roof and other areas.

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