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Spirit of '45 Celebration

Collectors show off vehicles,
planes at Louisville event

Many area World War II veterans honored

September 2015 Cover

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (September 2015) – Eighty-five-year old retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gene Spicer has seen a lot in his day, and he continues to share his stories and relics of the past with visitors by regularly displaying his collection of 12 World War II-era vehicles. The Dupont, Ind., resident brought five of his vehicles to Louisville’s Bowman Field on Aug. 15 to take part in the “Spirit of ’45” event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The event drew thousands of visitors and many war veterans and their families, who perused many displays by area organizations and viewed private military collections and military tanks and vehicles, such as Spicer’s. They also watched a group of World War II-era airplanes called the Vintage War Birds perform flyovers in formation.

Photo by Don Ward

Army Brig. Gen. Gene Spicer of Dupont, Ind., poses with one of his 12 military vehicles, a 1943 WC51 Dodge Weapons Carrier, at the Spirit of ‘’45 Celebration in Louisville. Spicer displays his vehicles at shows, festivals and parades in the region.

“I enjoy showing them off to crowds like this,” said Spicer, who served in the Korean War from 1951-52 as a U.S. Army general in the 24th Infantry Division-19th Infantry Regiment. He later spent three years in the 38th Division Indiana National Guard based in North Vernon.
When he got of the military, he went to the University of Kentucky to become a high school teacher. He then taught high school agriculture for 23 years, starting in Oil Springs, Ky., and later at Madison Consolidated High School. Upon retiring from teaching in 1988, he sold crop insurance to farmers until retiring five years ago.
Today, he stays busy showing off his collection of military vehicles, both in Indiana and Kentucky region and in Arizona, where he spends the winter at Lake Havasu. He keeps some of his military vehicles in Arizona, where he shows them at area military shows and parades.

Photo by Don Ward

Corey Helm of New Albany, Ind., poses with his prized 1944 Willys MB quarter-ton military jeep that he restored.

Spicer is a member of the Kilroy Chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, a 50-member group of collectors of restored military vehicles. Kilroy stands for Kentucky-Indiana Living Relics of Yesteryear. The club meets monthly at the Aero Club at Bowman Field, and members regularly attends shows, parades and festivals to display their vehicles.
Club president Corey Helm of New Albany says the group welcomes new members. An aircraft maintenance supervisor at UPS, Helm, 56, said he became involved when he purchased and restored a 1944 Willys MB quarter-ton jeep. He participates in the club as a tribute to his father, who served in the Navy in Korea, and to his father-in-law Richard Callahan of Dixon, Ill., who also served in war.
Club members have several upcoming events where they will be displaying their vehicles: Sept. 13 at the Lanesville festival; Sept. 17 at the Louisville Gaslight Festival parade; Oct. 3 at the New Albany, Ind., Harvest Homecoming parade; and Nov. 11 at the Louisville Veterans’ Day Parade on Main Street.

Photo by Don Ward

The Ladies for Liberty singers performed Andrews­ Sisters songs.

The latter event is expected to be special this year, considering it is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Bedford, Ky.’s own Glenn Fisher and Henry County’s Herman Stanley have been invited to ride in the parade as two of four grand marshals, according to Jeff Thoke, a Trimble County resident and New Castle Main Street Program director, Thoke organizes the annual Patriotic Festival in New Castle in June. He and his wife, Pam, worked at the Louisville festival to register all World War II veterans who attended.
The veterans wore badges that identified them, and visitors took turns meeting and thanking them for their military service.
Thoke said they registered more than 100 World War II veterans over the weekend. “It’s amazing that so many of them attended both events on Saturday and Sunday.” In addition to the day-long celebration at Bowman Field for the public, a free Honor Flight dinner was held for veterans on Sunday at the VFW Post 1170 in Middletown.

Photo by Don Ward

Hundreds of visitors browsed dozens of display booths of World War II memorabilia at the Spirit of ’45 Celebration at Louisville’s Bowman Field on Aug. 15.

Thoke said the Louisville parade committee wanted several veterans to ride in the Nov. 11 parade with a veteran representing each branch of the military. Thoke suggested they invite Fisher to represent the Army and Stanley to represent the Army Air Corps. They have since accepted and are confirmed for the 11 a.m. parade, Thoke said.
Meantime outside on the tarmac, the Ladies for Liberty trio, a Louisville-based group, performed many 1940s Andrew Sisters songs and the Vintage War Birds flew their war planes overhead, while visitors browsed books, posters and all type of memorabilia from the era inside Hangar 5.
The event drew an unexpectedly large crowd, according to Thoke, who was on the Spirit of ’45 planning committee. “We did not expect this many people. It’s great, and it’s great for these veterans because we won’t have them around much longer. They are in their 80s and 90s, so we need to take every opportunity to express our appreciation.”

• For more information on the Kilroy Military Vehicle Preservation Association, visit: www.Kilroymvpa.com.

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