Photo Courtesy of Philip Alvarado
On Sunday October 14th about 11:00 a.m. local Greenwood residents were treated to an overflight of light planes along the north side of Highway 150. The flight was in honor of the passing of First Lieutenant LeRoy Florence who passed away on September 16th. It was his 93rd birthday.On Sunday October 14th about 11:00 a.m. local Greenwood residents were treated to an overflight of light planes along the north side of Highway 150. The flight was in honor of the passing of First Lieutenant LeRoy Florence who passed away on September 16th. It was his 93rd birthday.
1Lt. Florence served as a co-pilot on B-29 Army Air Corps heavy bombers in the South Pacific during the final years of World War II. He flew from Saipan and Tinian, small islands in the South Pacific that served as forward bases for the heavy bombers attacking the Japanese home islands.
1Lt. Florence flew with the 73rd Bomb Wing, 499th Bomb Group, 878th Squadron which was part of the 20th Air Corps. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals. The aircraft the lieutenant flew carried approximately 20,000 pounds of bombs. In comparison to a modern day multirole fighter bomber, the F-15 can carry 16,000 pounds of ordinance. So the number of trips required of the men in the USAAC were considerable. Because of weather around the Japanese home islands, many of the strikes were done at night.
It is hard for present day civilians to imagine the sheer nerve and courage required of these men performing these tasks. No GPS, poor radios, flying at night and using the stars to navigate to their targets. Then do it all over again to go home to a small island somewhere in a very large ocean.
The over-flight was especially moving for 1Lt. Florence’s daughter, Dinah Henderson of Greenwood. In March of this year, Dinah accompanied her father on a trip back to those islands, a rugged journey for the former officer, taking thirteen days and ten separate flights to complete she stated.
The aircraft flight originated from Lee’s Summit Airport. On the field there are a group of aircraft aficionados that fly a particular aircraft, the Van’s Aircraft RV series. These aircraft are built from a kit frequently by their owner and are stylish low wing metal aircraft. A popular kit more than 8,000 have been built.
The local group participates in many local events and can been seen regularly over Lee’s Summit usually in twos and threes. Formation flying requires rigorous additional training and certification.
These airmen also participated in the KC Flight Formation Team overflight of Arrowhead Stadium this past weekend, setting a yet to be confirmed Guinness World Record. Forty nine planes flew in an arrowhead formation over the stadium trailing pink smoke as part of "Pink Out Arrowhead" in support of October National Breast Cancer Month. The planes gathered at our own Lee’s Summit airport where they staged and had a short practice on Saturday. After the overflight, all the planes returned safely and the pilots were taken to the stadium.
Also contributing locally was Richard White, who designed and built many of the smoke canisters used in the display. Richard and his family own R & D American Aviation LLC based on the airport providing a variety of routine and complex repairs to all types of aircraft. And he happens to be a member of the RV Team at the airport.
Pilots are an interesting group of people with a certain "air" about them. They understand clearly responsibility and obligation; the word is duty. And they remembered the family of a member of America’s Greatest Generation. They honored 1Lt. LeRoy Florence in a manner that he would have certainly appreciated.
LeRoy Fred “Lee” Florence Obituary http://lstribune.net/obituaries/leroy-fred-lee-florence.htm