New book explores history of air force base

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Writer Robert Stroup II, along with Donald "Pops" Porter, a retired USAF MSgt. and Rickenbacker/Lockbourne Air Force Base historian, review recently published copies of the book, "Crossroads to Liberty." Stroup and Porter collaborated on the book, a publication commemorating the history of the former active duty Strategic Air Command base from its inception in 1942 to its dual role today as an international airport and Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base. 

Digging through boxes and surfing the Internet can reap big rewards, especially if you are facing the daunting task of compiling a comprehensive history of the glory days of a former active duty military base.

Author Rob Stroup II and historian Donald "Pops" Porter, USAF retired, finally accomplished their mission this year, culminating in the publication of "Crossroads of Liberty," a pictorial tribute to the legacy of Lockbourne/Rickenbacker Air Force Base from its start in 1942 to its present dual use as an international airport and National Guard base.

"I don’t think there’s ever been a history of a base like this. You can get a book on SAC, but I don’t know of any other histories like this," said Porter. "We’ve been working on this for over three years. Rob wanted some base history and Warren Motts (of Motts Military Museum) told him he wasn’t aware of a history book on the base, so Warren sent him to me."

Stroup said his family made many trips to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, where he fell in love with the sprawling complex filled with artifacts spanning the history of the service. As an adult, he continued to visit the museum and one day reflected on Rickenbacker’s role in the Air Force.

"Here we have this former base and I wanted to know about its history," said Stroup, "and I wanted to buy a book about it. I couldn’t find one, so I thought I should do it. I knew there had to be a great history out there, so I prayed about it, and about a year later an opportunity presented itself.

"I was on vacation and decided to go to Motts (Military Museum). I told Warren I had an idea about a book. I then met Don on April 21, 2005. He picked me up and we went out to Rickenbacker. I’ve never served in the military and felt out of place when we went into the headquarters building. Don walked in and told (Lt.) Col. Kathy Lowrey, ‘We’re writing a book.’ At that time, all I had was a good idea, but nothing else."
Stroup then entered the base’s history office and came face to face with images, articles, and memorabilia collected over the course of more than 65 years.

"I got a job on second shift, which allowed me to go out to the base to do research," said Stroup, a first-time author. "Everything was coming together, so I decided to shop the idea to a publisher, but no one was interested. I felt it was a God-inspired thing for me, so I kept my feet moving."

Over the next three years, Stroup continued to write and research while Porter combed records and talked with former service members stationed at the base. Porter said, at one time, Lockbourne was the largest B-17 base for its time and the first radio-controlled aircraft were tested at the base.

The Smithsonian supplied pictures of the Tuskegee Airmen, including Mal Whitfield, who was the first U.S. serviceman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. According to Stroup, the Tuskegee spouses organized a wives club that is believed to be responsible for the first base nursery.

A former Strategic Air Command pilot supplied 50-60 images from the 1950s-1960s, including many aerial shots, and George Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees who was a young Lieutenant stationed at Lockbourne from 1952-1954, provided a couple of personal photographs.

"I called the Clippers organization when they were still a part of the Yankees organization and they said they would hand deliver my request to George Steinbrenner," Stroup said. "He sent me a letter and two original photos. It seemed like every time I needed something crucial, it came, and I’m elated we’ve come full circle."

The self-published, 160-page book, filled with 150 color and black and white images from Eddie Rickenbacker to its present mission as a cargo and passenger portal, is told in two parts.

"I wanted to tell a story," said Stroup, "one that told the story in photographs and secondly, I felt we should do a decade-by-decade history. In every chapter, I try to present a backdrop of the time and I dedicated the book to every service member who served out there."

Copies of "Crossroads of Liberty, A Pictorial Tribute to Lockbourne/Rickenbacker AFB-ANGB-IAP," cost $32, are now available at Groveport Town Hall, 648 Main St., and at Motts Military Museum, 5075 S. Hamilton Road. Stroup and Porter will conduct a discussion and book signing at Town Hall on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Information on the book is  available at www.crossroadsofliberty.com.
 

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