From its hasty ground-breaking ceremony in the spring of 1942 to its closure in the summer of 1965, Smoky Hill Army Air Field and later Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, Kan., collected countless memories and histories that may be gone but, with a little help from the community, will never be forgotten.
The Salina Airport Authority is in the planning stages of building a museum dedicated to the men, women and children who built their lives and this community in those short years.
“Right now we’re the accumulation process,” said Melissa McCoy, the authority’s manager of public affairs and communications. “We’re looking to the community to help donate whatever they have so future generations won’t miss out on it.”
The authority has amassed all types of memorabilia from matchboxes to full uniforms. Currently, it has pennants, photos, cookbooks, a license plate and letters from soldiers and airmen, as well as a one written by a German prisoner of war held at Internment Camp, Camp Phillips and much more.
Larry Britegam, the president of local Sunflower Bank, has been assisting the authority in the collection of these artifacts for a few years now.
“When Tim (Rogers, the authority’s executive director) first talked to me about a potential museum he was very enthusiastic, which made me more enthusiastic,” said Britegam. “It just took off from there. I started doing searches on eBay for Schilling, Smoky Hill and Camp Phillips and surprisingly found a lot of artifacts that families were starting to get rid of and felt compelled to start buying it, holding on to it, knowing someday it would be used for something.”
The historic military presence is a big part of why Salina is here. The aim of the future museum is to teach generations to come what role that presence played in Salina’s history.
If you have souvenirs or memorabilia of Schilling Air Force Base or Smoky Hill Army Airfield and would like to donate to the museum contact the Salina Airport Authority. Authority officials note donors will receive proper recognition and pick up is available.