By Jim Dresbach Pentagram Staff WriterJune 20, 2018
The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Bakers Creek flying fortress air crash near Mackay, Australia, introduced a new connection between Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and World War II's most deadly air disaster in the south Pacific theater.
The current JBM-HH Commander Col. Kimberly Peeples is related to one of the Bakers Creek perished service members, U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Jack Ogren.
Ogren was the crew's navigator during the B-17 Flying Fortress' ill-fated flight. The lieutenant was one of 40 men, who died in the crash.
Relatives of Ogren journeyed to join Peeples for June 14's ceremony. Bettie and Stephen Walter of Texas -- Peeples' aunt and uncle -- traveled to the Military District of Washington June 14; they called the crew member Uncle Jack.
"What I knew of Uncle Jack were black and white photographs when he was young, and his headstone at the cemetery," Bettie Walter said of her uncle, who is buried in Ohio. "Most of the information was a big mystery growing up, because we didn't know much about how Jack died other than he died in a plane crash during World War II. His mother, my grandmother, probably knew but didn't share any of the details, but she might not have had very many details. (His death) broke her heart."
The June 14 ceremony was Peeples' first official Bakers Creek commemoration as base commander, but she has taken part in a past JBM-HH Bakers Creek remembrance.
"My first exposure to Bakers Creek was when my Aunt Bettie and Uncle Steve brought me here several years ago and told me their story of my Aunt Bettie's uncle," Peeples said the morning of the memorial. "(This ceremony) is so special and I'm honored (to be a part of it)."
Bettie, who called the ceremony "lovely," has been told by members of the World War II generation the time has come for a new generation to keep the memory of the Bakers Creek crash victims alive for current and future family survivors.
"My father said its time for the next generation to start taking care of (remembering the victims)," she said. "My father is one of the few people who are still alive who actually knew a victim of the crash."
Pentagram Staff Writer Jim Dresbach can be reached at email@example.com.