Last updated: September 21, 2023
As the “Air Capitol of the World,” the City of Wichita, Kansas has a strong connection with World War II, with its greatest home front accomplishment being the development and production of military aircraft. In all nearly 26,000 planes of various types were produced: single and multi-engine training craft; cargo and transport planes; and more than 1600 B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers.
Thousands more men and women flocked to Wichita for jobs; the city’s population jumped from 114,966 in 1940 to approximately 200,000 in 1943. War production factories were open around-the-clock and local businesses, such as restaurants and bus lines, operated all day to serve the workers. Wichita meat processing plants, flour mills, and oil refineries also supplied the troops. The Coleman Company designed a one-man stove, later called the G.I. Pocket Stove, that resulted in the production of more than one million units before war’s end. Troop trains, each carrying hundreds of new service men, traveled through the city. Union Station and the bus depot had canteens supported by more than 1500 volunteers from nearly forty different women’s clubs to staff them. Other local organizations, such as The Veterans of Foreign Wars “Over There” Post No. 112, sent care packages to troops overseas.
In 1951, the city’s Municipal Airport site was taken over by the United States Air Force to become McConnell Air Force Base. The base was named after three Wichita brothers from the McConnell family, who were Air Force pilots and World War II veterans. The Municipal Airport’s administration building, which opened in 1935, is now the Kansas Aviation Museum. Local volunteers contributed greatly to the restoration of a B-29 Superfortress nicknamed “Doc” that now serving as an aviation ambassador. Kansas Honor Flights have used Wichita’s Eisenhower National Airport to take more than 2,500 veterans to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C., with local groups happily welcoming the veterans’ return.
Veteran’s Memorial Park actively commemorates WWII veterans and events. Memorials honor Pearl Harbor Survivors, the U.S.S. Wichita, America’s Gold Star Families, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Prisoners of War & Missing in Action, and the Berlin Airlift Veterans. Annual activities in the park honor various events of the war such as Pearl Harbor Day, the D-Day Invasion, VE, and VJ Days.