A B-2 Spirit "Stealth Bomber" is pictured in flight while performing an operational training mission from Whiteman Air Force Base in 1995. Shaped like a boomerang with a serrated rear section, the aircraft is 69 feet long and 17 feet high with a wingspan of 172 feet. In recent years, the B-2 has been used in conventional bombing roles in strikes in the Iraq War and against Libyan forces. From the home of the B-2 fleet at Whiteman AFB, the flight time to Iraq and back is 38 hours and includes 4 to 5 aerial refuelings.
Colonel Ralph Bagby, formerly of New Haven, Missouri, had served as a pilot during World War I and was called into service during the Second World War to help plan the airborne operations for the D-Day invasion.
The 48-year-old colonel's story really grows interesting when he went AWOL from his 9th Air Force Staff duties prior to the invasion and hitched a ride with a group of paratroopers on an Allied glider and made his first parachute jump during the beginning stages of the invasion. The group he was with went on to attack German fortifications and gun positions.
According to the June 11, 1944 edition of the Oakland Tribune, the former Missourian "went along to 'see how things were going,' has been reprimanded and will be decorated." The paper further noted, "As a staff officer he was not supposed to take an active part in the operations."
In the last couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to visit several times with Mrs. Betty Hearnes - the former first lady of Missouri - regarding her late husband's service in the military that occurred years before he became the state's 46th governor.
Warren E. Hearnes was raised in Charleston, Missouri, and, on May 27, 1940, he and a group of boys were able to conceal the fact that they were only 16 years old when enlisting in 140th Infantry Regiment of the Missouri National Guard. The following year, after they were mobilized at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, their true age was discovered and the group of minors was discharged on April 11, 1941, to be sent back to Charleston to finish out their senior year of high school.
After graduating from high school, Hearnes went on to attend the University of Missouri for a year and a half but was then drafted into the U.S. Army on February 24, 1943 and sent to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Shortly after his arrival at the fort, he received a telegram notifying him of his appointment to West Point - The U.S. Military Academy.
Hearnes graduated from West Point as an infantry officer in 1946, having undergone an accelerated 3-year training program due to the nation's previous war footing. Upon graduation, Betty Hearnes noted, Lt. Hearnes "went to Ft. Benning for some more training and was then sent to Puerto Rico," where he was assigned to the 35th Infantry Division.
While in Puerto Rico in 1947, he broke his right ankle during a friendly baseball game with fellow soldiers - an injury that would never fully heal, which would lead to his discharge in 1949 and aggravate him for the rest of his life.
The late governor's story of military service is one of many that I plan on sharing in greater detail in the coming weeks. I extend my thanks and appreciation to Betty Hearnes for providing this photograph of Cadet Hearnes in his West Point uniform in addition to the many details of his military service.
The late Donald D. Pittman of Jefferson City was certainly a veteran of great military interest. Born and raised in Jefferson City, Pittman rose to the rank of major general in the United States Air Force and held such important assignments as commander of 14th Air Division at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., commander of 314th Air Division at Osan Air Base, Korea, and commander of the 24th NORAD Region.
As a pilot with more than 11,000 flying hours in 42 types of aircraft, Pitt...man remained actively engaged in military aviation developments following his retirement from active duty on October 1, 1978.
In his collection of photographs and military mementos were many photographs, such as this one released by the Office of Public Information for Lockheed Aeronautical Systems in August 1990 showing the tactical fighter YF-22 prototype under consideration by the U.S. Air Force. The YF-22 design won a contest over Northrop's YF-23 prototype and in later years, after improvements were made to the YF-22 prototype, entered production as the F-22 Raptor.
The American Red Cross grew exponentially during World War I and established a number of services to support the troops serving at home and abroad. As part of the "Home Service," the Red Cross helped provide communication between troops and their families.
The attached postcard was provided by the Red Cross and sent to the father of Thornton Petty--a soldier from Kearney, Mo., who served overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces during the war. The card was sent shortly after Petty arrived back in the United States in June 1919 informing his family that he would soon be sent to a military post (likely Jefferson Barracks) and discharged from the Army. (Photo courtesy of Jeremy P. Ämick)
On September 14, 1953 in a roadside park on Ten Mile Drive west of Jefferson City was the dedication of the area’s first Blue Star Memorial marker. Pictured here is the unveiling of the marker by Mrs. Frank Voss, left, Blue Star chairman of Hawthorn Garden Club and Mrs. Ernest Levy, president of Hawthorn Garden Club. Attendees at the event included Rex Whitton, who was then chief engineer of the Missouri State Highway Commission and Harris Rodgers, chairman of the commission.
During the construction of the Capital Mall in the late 1970s, the marker was moved to make room for expansion of the roads in the area and placed in the roadside park across from Steak ‘n Shake on Missouri Boulevard that was once home to a Spanish-American War statue; however, the marker has since been moved and placed at the entrance to Washington Park.
The late Major General Don D. Pittman--a Jefferson City, Mo., native and 1943 graduate of St. Peter's High School--took these photographs during the retirement ...of the Air Force's fleet of SR-71 Blackbirds at Beale Air Force Base, California, on January 26, 1990.
The Blackbird cadre was formed at Beale AFB in January 1965 with the first aircraft arriving the following year. In May 1973, Maj. Gen. Pittman became commander of the 14th Air Division at Beale AFB and had under his command several reconnaissance, bombardment, airborne command and control and refueling organizations, some of which were equipped with the SR-71.
For nearly 25 years, the SR-71 performed worldwide aerial reconnaissance operations and broke a number of speed and altitude records. Regardless of its performance, a dwindling defense budget combined with the high cost of maintenance eventually heralded the end of this legendary aircraft.
The Missouri National Guard has before struggled with unique political concerns due a blending of both state and federal authorities. This organization has labored to maintain its distinction as the state militia, which has led to some curious situations such as one characterized by a conflict between a former state governor and the late Colonel Edwin Batdorf during the Spanish-American War.
Born near Dayton, Ohio, on October 4, 1853, Batdorf moved to Kansas in 1871, where his father operated a hotel. Years later, the July 28, 1898 edition of the Newton Daily Republican (Newton, Kan.) reported, the young Batdorf moved to St. Louis to clerk in a hotel and “afterward engaged in the commission business …”
In addition to working full-time, Batdorf became a private with the First Regiment—a former Missouri National Guard regiment located in St. Louis—and quickly rose through the ranks to become an officer. The budding officer soon discovered, however, that military organizations were subject to funding uncertainties originating from the state capitol in Jefferson City.
“On May 23, 1887, the First Regiment was disbanded owing to the fact that the State Legislature failed to provide for its support,” notes the 1934 book “History of the Missouri National Guard.” The book adds, “In the late summer of 1887, through the efforts of Lieutenant Edwin Batdorf, a battalion was organized, which was later expanded into a regiment and became the First Regiment, National Guard of Missouri.”
After becoming colonel on June 21, 1893, Batdorf did not enjoy a peaceful tenure in uniform and his reputation was scarred by altercations with the state leadership over his vocalized concerns, the most notable relating to the formation of the Missouri National Guard Association. During the meeting that formed the association in January 1897, Adjutant General of the Missouri National Guard, Brigadier General Joseph Wickham, became the organization’s chairman. As noted in the January 3, 1897 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was proposed that the colonels of the state’s (then) four regiments and the captains of the two artillery batteries serve as vice-presidents.
Col. Batdorf “at once took violent objection to it on the grounds that Battery A, which had only seventy members, was awarded as great a representation as the First Regiment, with its membership of 700,” the newspaper explained. Following this incident, Batdorf and many officers of the First Regiment chose to boycott the newly formed association. The expression of Batdorf’s concerns certainly did not endear him to state authorities but the arrival of a major mobilization of troops the following year would provide him yet another opportunity to distance himself from any favor with both the adjutant general and governor.
As noted in the 1939 edition of the “National Guard Historical Annual, State of Missouri,” during the Spanish-American War, Missouri was given the allotment of 5,000 volunteers as part of the president’s call for 125,000 volunteers on April 22, 1898, one day following Congress’ resolution of war with Spain. The First Regiment became one of six Missouri regiments and a light battery of artillery mobilized during the conflict. Col. Batdorf and the men of the First mustered into federal service at Jefferson Barracks on May 13, 1898 and then left their St. Louis assembly site on May 19, 1898, bound for Camp George H. Thomas at Chickamauga Park, Georgia.
Despite the rather lackluster circumstances the regiment experienced while at camp in Georgia, any privations they were forced to endure were overshadowed in the newspapers by altercations between Batdorf and Missouri Governor Lon Stephens. Appointed as an acting brigadier general during the greatest part of his Spanish-American War service, Batdorf and several officers of First Regiment quickly drew the ire of the Missouri’s governor when they refused to accept officer commissions issued from the governor.
Gov. Stephens received more unwanted news when Secretary of War Russell Alger submitted a ruling essentially nullifying the state commissions and affirming “the regiments were to remain as mustered in from the Stated Guards…,” as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 16, 1898. Months later, the First Regiment returned to St. Louis, never having left the Unites States during the brief war. It was at this time Gov. Stephens gained somewhat of a victory over Batdorf when he reorganized the regiment and excluded Batdorf from the new command structure.
Batdorf again set the newspapers abuzz when he filed suit against the governor, seeking $50,000 in damages because of a “number of interviews with Gov. Stephens printed in various newspapers of St. Louis reflecting (unfavorably) upon Col. Batdorf as an officer and a gentleman,” wrote the St. Post-Dispatch on September 21, 1899. The lawsuit was later dismissed and the colonel faded from public light until 1903, at which time Adjutant General W. T. Dameron, following the expiration of Gov. Stephens’ term, added Batdorf’s name to the honorary roll of retired officers of the Missouri National Guard.
In the years after his release from the National Guard, Batdorf’s life gained some semblance of normalcy as the married father of one son served as treasurer for the former Forest City Building Company in St. Louis. The retired colonel received further recognition in 1920, seven years prior to his death, when Adjutant General Harvey Clark issued him a special medal authorized by the Missouri Legislative Assembly for the state’s veterans of the Spanish-American War.
Col. Batdorf passed away on January 14, 1927, when 73 years old, at Westgate Hotel in St. Louis and was laid to rest in his native state of Ohio. Though much of his embattled service with the National Guard has been forgotten, the words of another Missouri governor 20 years following Batdorf’s death stressed the importance of preserving the state’s military legacy, however controversial.
In a letter to the 49th Annual National Encampment of the United Spanish War Veterans in 1947, Gov. Phil Donnelly stated, “We revere the memory of the men who volunteered in Missouri Regiments in the Spanish-American War …,” adding, “(and) I am sure the pages of history will record your services, and the campaigns in which you engaged …”
Jeremy P. Ämick is a military historian and author of the upcoming Arcadia Publishing release “Missouri at War.”
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.