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MSgt William L. Hopper
From its humble beginning in 1940, Baer Field has remained an airbase critical to the preservation of freedom here and abroad. Uniquely its roots have remained within the community from its inception. At the request of the city of Fort Wayne, Baer Field was born. Early in 1941 the War
Department informed Fort Wayne that they would indeed locate a new airbase in “The Fort” if the city could secure possession of 700 acres by February 1. With less than a month to work, 30 local businessmen signed notes and 4 local banks advanced the finances needed to make it a reality.
The field’s namesake is 1Lt Paul Frank Baer, a WWI combat ace that grew up in Fort Wayne. After being shot down he fell into German hands and remained a P.O.W. until after the armistice. With a heroes welcome he returned to Fort Wayne in February of 1918 and became an aviation pioneer and test pilot. The War Department awarded Lt Baer the Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster for bringing down at least 8 enemy planes. He was also decorated with the Legion d’Honneur and CROIX de GUERRE with palms (the highest citation degree given by the French) for his service with the famous Lafayette Escadrille. He died as a result of a plane crash in December of 1930 while delivering mail and passengers when his float plane crashed into debris on the Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. He is buried here in Fort Wayne at the Lindenwood Cemetery.
Since its beginning Baer field has been host to many fighter aircraft to include the P-51D Mustang, F-80C Shooting Star, F-86A Sabre, F-84F Thunderstreak, RF-84F Thunderflash, F-100D Super Sabre, F-4C & E Phantom II, F-16C Fighting Falcon and currently the A-10C Thunderbolt II (Warthog). Early in its history Baer Field was a major training and processing base for the C-47 Skytrain and C-46 Commando. During WWII more than 100,000 military personnel served out of the field’s over 100 structures. In 1942 the 78th Fighter Group was activated at Baer field. Equipped with P-38E Lightnings they would later escort the B-17 Flying Fortress to targets within occupied Europe. Late 1942 brought the B-26 Marauder to Baer Field for staging in preparation for the Battle of Midway.
As you can see, the legacy of Baer Field is astonishing and the Heritage Park is an opportunity to share that history with future generations.
Several years ago a group of individuals from the 122nd Fighter Wing began generating ideas as to the development of a park near the outskirts of the base. Their vision and desire was to have a one of a kind park that was open to the public and provided a window to the history of the 122nd Fighter Wing and Baer Field. Heritage Park has been open to the public at the 122nd Fighter Wing since May 1, 2013.
Heritage Park is a place to discover the rich culture of the 122nd Fighter Wing while enjoying lunch with your family. We live in a great community that offers our military members tremendous support, and Baer Field Heritage Park is a way that we can thank our community members for standing behind us. The 122nd Fighter Wing is proud of our heritage and are very excited to share this with our community. Military history and heritage play an important role in continuing traditions and remembering legacies.
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