Billion Dollar Scrap Heap: Walnut Ridge Airport

It’s a Boeing 737 and I am NOT flying it! It is a retired and firmly planted 737 based at KARG, Walnut Ridge Airport, now living life as the Parachute Inn Restaurant. If you’re passing through northeast Arkansas, do yourself a favor and stop at the expansive Walnut Ridge Airport and have lunch at the restaurant that serves meals in the body of this Boeing 737. I landed at Walnut Ridge for a lunch stop on my way back to Indiana from Texas. It turned out the Parachute Inn Restaurant was just the teaser that got me to KARG. I soon discovered a hidden gem was just across the parking lot, the Wings of Honor WWII Aviation Museum.

The Wings of Honor WWII Museum preserves the history of the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School, the Marine Corps Air Facility at Walnut Ridge, the War Assets Administration’s Warbird Storage, Sales and Scrapping Facility, and the USAF 725th Radar Squadron. The field may be most famous for the number of warbirds it scrapped after WWII ended.

The Walnut Ridge Boneyard. Hundreds of surplus P40’s were destroyed.

If you don’t see anything else, see this video!! I first watched it during my tour of the museum and was blown away. I parked myself in front of the tiny TV that auto-replayed this video and didn’t move. I watched it over and over, astounded this was our government’s solution to downsizing our military. Perfect airplanes we would all give our eye-teeth for today were destroyed; partially disassembled, engines saved, then mowed down by bulldozers. Who destroys and smashes row after row of P40s? Walnut Ridge did. Prepare to cringe!

I couldn’t pull myself away from this tiny TV video.

This is not just Arkansas history, this is U.S. history. This very sad telegram was donated to the Museum and is one of the many heart-wrenching items on display.

Walnut Ridge Airport has a rich history relating to WWII and beyond. The airfield was activated on August 15th, 1942, the new site where World War II pilots would be trained. On October 3, 1942 the airfield received its first aircraft, the Vultee BT-13 trainers. October 1942, pilot training began.  In its prime, the airfield contained over 3,000 military personnel and 2,000 civilian employees.  In just over 21 months 5,310 students entered training and 4,641 graduated. Forty-two students and instructors were killed in training. The last class graduated June 27, 1944. “Deepest regrets’  were the words families all too often read on telegrams delivered to their homes.

Haha, “We never figured you could do a man-size job!” Guess they never heard of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP’s)!!

More amazing WWII photos from Walnut Ridge follow. Pilots flying cross-country, consider KARG as an excellent refueling and lunch stop – with an awesome, added bonus for everyone who respects and appreciates our veterans and their ultimate sacrifices.

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