RCAF and RAF Americans inducted into Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame

News Article / November 20, 2017

Click on the photo under “Image Gallery” to see more photos.

By Karl Kjarsgaard

Last month I traveled to Denver, Colorado, for the induction into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame of 10 Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Air Force airmen from Colorado.  

I represented the Bomber Command Museum of Canada (BCMC), located in Nanton, Alberta, because we were one of the main sponsors of the induction ceremony, held on October 14, 2017. John Stemple of Florida, a member of the BCMC, and the Colorado Aviation Historical Society, directed by Lance Barber and his staff, were the other main sponsors.

Well over 150 people attended the ceremony, held at the Lakewood Country Club in Lakewood, Colorado, near Denver. Several distinguished aviators in Colorado's aviation history were also honoured, including Marlon DeWitt Green, the first black airline pilot in the US.

We were honoured to have both Stéphane Lessard, the Consul-General of Canada in Denver, and the RCAF’s Major-General Christopher Coates, director of operations at NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs, attend and speak at this special event.

We were also thrilled to have four relatives of the 10 airmen being honoured present in the audience. To say that they were proud of their airmen and gratified that they were finally being recognized after so many years would be the understatement of 2017.

Cynthia Hoffman represented the family of Leroy Gover, who served with the RAF, and Marla Groth, Marilyn Hendrix and Patricia Hendrix Schelhaas represented Robert Hendrix of the RCAF.

Honourable mention must go to Kimberly Lewis of the Canadian Consulate in Denver for her invaluable work on the Ancestry website to find the families of our honoured airmen.

I introduced the audience to the BCMC and our efforts to get credit for the Americans who flew and fought in the Second World War with our RCAF and RAF aircrew but who, since the end of the war, have never been fully recognized. They all joined the RCAF or RAF before the United States entered the war

The RAF formed three “Eagle” fighter squadrons before the United States entered the war; the squadrons were filled principally with volunteers from the United States. In September 1942, the squadrons were turned over to the United States Army Air Forces’ Eighth Air Force.

This is the BCMC's third state memorial for our RCAF and RAF Americans; memorials have already been completed in Virginia and Florida.

I presented the biographies of the ten RCAF and RAF Coloradans who were being inducted into the Hall of Fame, describing their careers, which were filled with great adventure, honour and sacrifice.

LW682 lives on

 The aluminum from Halifax bomber LW682 has been preserved by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada and it has been used in several unique ways, including the roof of the Bomber Command Memorial in London, England, a memorial to the crew located at 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario, and, soon, a small amount of the metal will be incorporated into the metal wings worn by RCAF aircrew.

I also explained to the audience (and they were clearly amazed by this) that the RCAF badge at the centre of the beautiful plaque that will be placed in the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame is made from the actual aluminum of a RCAF Halifax bomber LW682 from the RCAF’s 426 “Thunderbird” Squadron.

The precious metal of this Halifax bomber was saved by BCMC and their partners after missing-in-action aircrew were recovered from the wreckage of the crashed aircraft in Belgium. The three airmen were buried with military honours in 1997.

The most powerful comments and eloquent words at the end of the induction ceremony came from both Consul-General Lessard and Major-General Coates when they described the great ties between the U.S. and Canada, with both our nations preserving democracy and defending North American together.

It was a great ceremony, with the history of both our nations found, renewed and strengthened as we remembered the RCAF and RAF warriors who fought for our freedom in the Second World War.

The plaque displays the RCAF’s Second World War-era badge (crest). The text reads: We remember with enduring gratitude the patriots from Colorado who voluntarily joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. These individuals risked their lives in defence of Mother England, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Commonwealth of Nations, and Freedom. Some of the Coloradans made the ultimate sacrifice during their service.

Metal from Royal Canadian Air Force Halifax bomber LW682, shot down during World War II and recovered by 1997, was donated by the Bomber Command Museum of Canada and used for the casting of the Royal Canadian Air Force Crest.

Editor’s note: According to an article by John Stemple, published on the 20th Century Aviation Magazine website, another RCAF Coloradan was discovered immediately before the induction ceremony, thanks to a family photograph, and will be honoured in 2018.

The Inductees

Pilot Officer Luke Elbert Allen
Born September 27, 1917, in Elbert County (Ignacio), Colorado.

Before the war, Pilot Officer Allen was hired as a pilot by the Thompson Flying Service and made the move to Denver, Colorado. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 and flew combat with the Eagle Squadrons, attaining the rank of pilot officer. He then joined the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). He flew in the Korean War in the United States Air Force and retired in the rank of captain. He then went on to corporate flying in Utah. He passed away in 2009 and is buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Pilot Officer Frank Raymond Boyles    
Born July 24, 1920, in Syriam, Burma.

Pilot Officer Boyles’ home town was Mount Vernon, New York. Before the Second World War, Boyles moved to Boulder, Colorado, and attended the University of Colorado. He joined the RAF in 1941 and was sent to England where he flew with the RAF Eagle Squadrons and attained the rank of pilot officer. He then was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in 1942 and flew Mustangs with the 4th Fighter Group in 1942-1943. He attained the rank of captain and was shot down and killed in action in April 1944 over Germany. He is buried in Belgium.

Aircraftman 2nd Class James Campbell Davie  
Born December 28, 1920, in Kingston, Ontario.

Aircraftman 2nd Class Davie lived in Pueblo, Colorado, with his family from 1926 to 1941, attending schools there. In June 1941, he joined the RCAF and went to Canada for flying training. He was just finishing his flying training when he died of pneumonia in Toronto, Ontario, in October 1941. The RCAF, at the request of his family, returned his body to Pueblo, where he is buried.

Flight Sergeant Billy Orin Gates  
Born January 10, 1917, in Berthoud, Colorado.

Flight Sergeant Gates attended school at Loveland. While at Colorado State College in Fort Collins in 1940, he joined the USAAF cadet program but failed to pass. He joined the RCAF in late 1940. He successfully completed his training in Canada in 1941 and was sent to England flying on Wellington bombers with RAF 214 Squadron until his death in combat in April 1942. He is buried in Belgium.

Pilot Officer Leroy Gover  
Born May 6, 1914, in Loveland, Colorado.

Pilot Officer Gover’s family relocated to San Carlos, California, when he was a child. After graduating from Sequoia Union High School in Redwood City, California, he became a crop-duster pilot. He joined the RAF in August 1941 and went overseas to England. He flew with the RAF in the Eagle Squadrons, where he attained the rank of Pilot Officer. He transferred to the USAAF in 1942 and flew combat in 1943 until returning to the USA. He remained in the United States Air Force, retiring with the rank of colonel, until 1962. He then took up charter flying and flew until the 1990s in California. He died in 1997.

Leading Aircraftman Robert Henry Hendrix
Born June 4, 1921, in Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

Leading Aircraftman Hendrix’s family was from Arkansas but they settled in Walsenburg, Colorado, where he graduated from Huerfano High School in 1941. He joined the RCAF in early 1941 and was stationed in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, for his pilot training on Tiger Moths. He was killed in a swimming accident in July 1941 and his body, at the request of the family, was returned to the USA, where he is buried in the Masonic Cemetery, in Walsenburg.

Flight Sergeant Clyde Homer Jay, Jr.
Born May 23, 1916, in Salina, Utah.

Flight Sergeant Jay attended all his schooling in Denver graduation from East Denver High School in 1934 then attended Colorado College from 1936 to 1938. He joined the RCAF in October 1940 and was sent overseas to England in October 1941. He joined the RCAF’s 415 Squadron of Coastal Command flying Hampden twin-engine bombers on anti-shipping patrols. He was killed in March 1942 and is buried in Sussex, England, with his bomber crew.

Squadron Leader James Christian Nelson
Born July 18, 1918, in Greeley, Colorado.

Squadron Leader Nelson attended Loveland High School and joined the RAF in 1941. After completing his training, he flew in combat with the RAF Eagle Squadrons in combat until 1943 when he became a highly-qualified and ranked RAF test pilot in England. He returned to Loveland in 1953 and became a Colorado government official. He died in 1971 in Loveland.

Flight Sergeant Richard Earl Todd
Born May 19, 1919, in Colorado Springs.

Flight Sergeant Todd lived in Colorado Springs until graduating from Cheyenne High School in 1938. He then attended college in Texas until joining the RCAF in September 1941. He completed his RCAF pilot training in 1942 and went to England where he joined the RCAF’s 426 Squadron, flying Wellington bombers, in early March 1943. He was shot down in late March 1943 and is buried in the Netherlands.

Flight Lieutenant Frederick Holbrook Mahn
Born July 26, 1916, in Buffalo, New York.

Flight Lieutenant Mahn graduated from East Denver High School in 1933 with his friend Clyde Homer Jay. He then went on to the Colorado School of Mines, and Harvard University. He joined the RCAF in October 1940 and was trained in Canada in 1941.  He was assigned overseas to the RCAF’s 415 Squadron, flying Hampden bombers. He was shot down in 1942 and survived two weeks in the English Channel, drifting in a dinghy, but lost his lower legs to injuries. He remained with the RCAF but died of illness in March 1946 while attending Cambridge University, leaving behind his British-born wife, whom he had married in 1944, and two children, who settled in Colorado.

Before he died, he asked that his ashes be scattered on Flight Sergeant Jay’s grave; his widow carried out his wishes.

Mr. Kjarsgaard is a director of the BCMC.

Date modified: