In late 1942 there was an article in The Hays Daily News headlined "Hays woman unexpectedly sees her son honored in 'Movie Tone News.'" Dwight Hunter was from Hays and he was one of the first Air Force Aces (possibly the first) in World War Two. The news showed him standing in front of his P-38 Lockheed Lightening with the appropriate number of "Rising Sun" symbols on the fuselage.
The Hunters lived in that little white house just to the west of the State Glass Building on Fifth Street. I do vaguely remember him. He had a sister Dorothy, who was an art student at Fort Hays and was also employed as my babysitter. I was 2 years old and she did that job for four years until she married and left Hays. Sometimes she would take me over to that little white house where I saw Dwight. Dorothy is the artist who painted the murals of "Old Hays" on the wall of the Lamer Hotel restaurant — whom I mentioned in an article recently.
Dwight was a member of the generation who ran toward the sound of the guns. Before the U.S. was involved in the war he went to Canada and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force. They were preparing to fight the Battle of Britain and he wanted to be part of it.
France had surrendered on June 17, 1940. Winston Churchill stated "The Battle of France has ended and now the Battle of Britain is about to begin." It began July 10, 1940. The Germans hit with up to1,000 planes at a time — and they came every day, several times a day, day after day. The British were outnumbered two to one but they had radar, which was unknown to the Germans. They knew where, when and how many were coming. The Royal Air Force pilots were on 15 hour shifts seven days a week. The RAF was flying Hawker Hurricanes and Spitfires. I don't know which Dwight flew and I don't know his score, but he sure learned how to fly in combat. The Germans could not destroy the RAF and gain air superiority and they could not execute their planned invasion of England. The Nazis were ready to invade England and the mission code name was "Sea Lion." The Battle of Britain lasted just three months; the RAF shot own an estimated 2,300 aircraft. When Winston Churchill spoke to his people he said "Never in the history of mankind did so many owe so much to so few."
Dwight did survive the war. He became a test pilot and was killed doing his job.
The other future WW II soldier I knew at an early age was John Owen. He lived with his parents directly behind our house on a strange little street named Haliday. It was the only house on Haliday and was directly behind our house at 504 Walnut. The alley running between Fifth and Sixth streets ran by the side of both houses. When I say I knew him, I was 4 to 6 years old and our contact was limited to a few short elemental conversations. I remember he had corduroy pants and they made a swishing sound as he walked past. I wanted a pair, but I didn't get any. His father owned a second hand store at the northeast corner of Fifth and Main. John, like almost every other young male went to war. I heard he had written his parents that he didn't expect to survive the war. He was killed in "The Battle of the Bulge." He was an only child.
The recent ceremonies at Normandy triggered these memories. I hope guys like Dwight and John will be remembered and honored in our memories and not fade into the abyss of anonymity. They were members of the "Greatest Generation."