Wings of Honor Project receives $500,000 pledge
from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
The Wings of Honor Project, which aims to build a monument at Santa Barbara International Airport to commemorate the site’s history as a US Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) during World War II, announced the start of its public fundraising campaign at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 1 inside the old 1942 Terminal at the airport.
The press conferenceincluded an official pledge of $500,000 by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in support of the project, which will provide a one-of-a-kind, 20-foot-tall, self-cleaning glass “Wings of Honor” sculpture as a tribute to thousands of Marines, Sailors and Coastguardsmen who trained and served at the MCAS.
“When our elders learned of this project, they instantly wanted to find a way for our tribe to help make the Wings of Honor a reality,” said Kenneth Kahn, Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “We have a great respect for our military men and women who have served our country. And within our small tribe, many of our people have served in all branches of the military since World War II. We’re proud to take part in this groundbreaking memorial to WWII veterans project.”
BGen. Frederick R. Lopez USMCR (Ret), who is the Chairman of the Wings of Honor Project, has worked for six years to bring this monument to fruition. He says the sculpture will be a lasting inspirational testament to the story of the base and will educate future generations about the vital role Santa Barbara played during World War II.
“Wings of Honor will be a world-class tribute to honor all who served at US Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Santa Barbara from 1942-1946, and to all those who served during WWII, so that they will never be forgotten. It commemorates the important historic fact that the Marine Corps Air Station, which trained Marine aviation units for combat in the Pacific, was based where Santa Barbara International Airport exists today. We are so grateful for the generous pledge of $500,000 toward the building of this monument from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, as it puts us closer to the day when construction can begin.
“This donation also puts us in a position to officially launch the public phase of our fundraising campaign, which will include Peter Jordano as our Honorary Campaign Chairman. Many others have also made contributions, including the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation and the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, along with several individuals. We just need $1 million more to break ground. We hope that will be possible by December 7, 2016 -- the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.” The cost of the monument, including construction and installation, is slated to total $3.1 million.
When the U.S. entered World War II, the government determined that it would need four Marine Corps air bases on the West Coast. The newly improved Santa Barbara Municipal Airport was chosen and leased by the U.S. Government in February 1942 because of its location, pleasant year-round climate, and access to the coast. Acquisition of surrounding lands began immediately. The first Marines arrived in June 1942, and in December of that year “Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Barbara” was commissioned. By the middle of 1943, more than 100 new buildings had been erected and the footprint had grown from the airport’s original 580 acres to 1,490 acres. In effect, it became a small city, with a population greater than Goleta’s and capable of housing and feeding a few thousand Marines. The air station shared the airport with commercial flights and served as a training base for pilots and aerial gunners.
At its peak, it housed just under 500 officers, approximately 3,100 enlisted men and another 440 enlisted women. Nineteen fighter squadrons (most flew the F4U Corsair), 11 torpedo bombing squadrons (principally the TBF/TBM Avenger), and three Scout bombing squadrons (with the SBD Dauntless) trained there.
After the war ended, the U.S. Government gave the land in the form of two quitclaim deeds to the City of Santa Barbara for the Airport (928 acres) and to the UC Regents for the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) (414 acres). Many of the Marine Corps’ buildings are still in use today as offices, UCSB dormitories, and more. Even UCSB’s historic Olympic-size swimming pool was built originally for the physical conditioning of US Marine aviators.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated more than $20 million to hundreds of groups, organizations and schools in the community and across the nation as part of the tribe’s long-standing tradition of giving.
Congregation B’Bai B’rth Luncheon Honoring local WWII Jewish Veterans
"Courage, honor and character" were the themes throughout an inspired presentation event November 15, 2015. Filmmaker Nancy Spielberg, Rabbi Steven Cohen and Brigadier General Frederick Lopez all paid tribute to the living Jewish World War II veterans in attendance at the Children of the Covenant Legacy luncheon. A reverential honor was also evident for all those who did not survive the war, the Holocaust or simply the 70 years that have passed since that courage and character were on display every day throughout that terrible conflict.
There were remarkable stories behind each of the veterans who were recognized and honored at the packed and oversubscribed luncheon. Many of those stories have been captured in the "Life Chronicles" documentary project.
General Lopez highlighted one of the most remarkable and heroic stories of World War II in sharing the story of Jewish Captain Benjamin Solomon. He was working as a dentist and quickly acted as a battlefield surgeon and then as a machine gunner in the fierce and desperate fighting in the battle of Saipan. Posthumously honored with the Medal of Honor for courage and heroism is the inspiration that is always needed to keep America free. In asking us to remember their stories General Lopez perfectly highlighted the message of Ms. Spielberg and her new film "Above and Beyond" about those World War II Jewish veterans who went on to surreptitiously establish the Israel Air Force that made survival possible as the first conflict emerged in 1948 as Israel was being born.
The proceeds of this event are being donated to preserving an important piece of our own local World War II history. The Wings Of Honor memorial at our Santa Barbara airport will be an important tribute to everyone who has ever served our country and the causes of liberty and justice. It will permanently honor our veterans and preserve the memory.