In 1941 a successful pilot and public relatiions writer living in Springfield, Illinois departed the city to begin active duty service with the US Army and did not come home. Did I hear someone say BOring? Not on your life.
NOTE — The image above suffered a problem when I formatted it to this blog. The title of the book is NOT as you see it in the image. The title is Story of a Hero Who Did Not Come Home John Thornton Walker of Springfield, Illinois
The book I am writing now, to be published by AeroKnow Museum before summer will be the first book about central Illinois men and women who served in World War II to be published by AeroKnow Museum. I am writing it in homage to a man I never met, but who was introduced to me as I was writing Springfield Aviation for Arcadia Publishing three years ago.
Richard and Bill Strouse, brothers, read of the book in preparation at my AeroKnow web site — http://www.aeroknow.com/ — and told me about John Thornton Walker, a Springfield kid who did well for himself. Walker was father of the Strouses’ mother Connie. Walker’s wife Geraldine was mother of Connie. Geraldine (“Gerri” to friends) had kept every picture young John had taken at Springfield High School (SHS), every newspaper clip published about John when he was injured in a fire at SHS and later when he went off to the Army . . . . . photographs he had taken at what today is remembered as Southwest Airport . . . an amazing archive. John was a reporter too and wrote an aviation column for the Illinois State Journal (Springfield’s morning news daily). Gerri kept those too. She kept clippings of news from North Africa and Italy where her husband served as General Mark Clark’s personal liaison aircraft pilot. And she kept the news of her husband’s death, burial, re-burial and the airport named after him. She and Connie attended the dedication. She passed it all to Connie, who passed it to her sons who shared it unselfishly with the Web and with me. The family gave permission to use what I wanted in the Arcadia book.
I was so impressed with what they had, and the story of John Thornton Walker, that I promised to “pitch” an article to my friends at Illinois Times and State Journal-Register after Springfield Aviation hit the bookstores. Both editors responded by not responding. As a freelance writer, I’m used to that; not every try-out makes it to the game.
I also know that to tell the story as it should be told, in recognition of the life of the man whose name most Springfieldians would not know if they saw it, and in thanks to the family that has been so generous in sharing the story with me. At least two hundred clippings and photographs shared by the family and also shared by the fine folks at the Illinois State Journal-Register and Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection will be consulted in putting the book together. There will also be chapters describing the city of Springfield during World War II — a subject I would love to share in a book of its own — and the role of liaison aircraft in that war.
The book will be published by AeroKnow Museum and every penny generated beyond production expense will be used to advance the Museum’s mission.
You don’t have to wait for the publication to advance the mission of AeroKnow Museum. You can advance it today by joining our support organization Abe Lincoln’s Air Force and by contributing funds, memorabilia, office supplies and more independently. You are not a joiner? That’s okay. You don’t have to join anything to help.
Story of a Hero Who Did Not Come Home is the first of what I hope will be several publications about Springfield and central Illinois men and women who have served the cause of freedom while wearing the uniform of the US and Allied Military Services. Your suggestions and ideas for future projects are welcome anytime.
CAVU and soft landings.