Air Defense Artillery artifacts display during TRADOC 50th Anniversary Week

By Monica WoodJune 26, 2023

First U.S. flag over Japan
Correy Twilley, director and curator, Air Defense Artillery Training Support Facility, shows off the 48-star flag sewn by POWs in a camp outside of Hiroshima, Japan. The one-of-a-kind artifact is just one of the items visitors can see when touring the facility June 26-29 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. during the TRADOC 50th Anniversary Week on Fort Sill. (Photo Credit: Monica Wood) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (June 26, 2023) - On July 1, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command will celebrate its 50th year of developing, educating and adapting Soldiers and leaders into the force that we know today.

As a TRADOC installation, the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill proudly celebrates this momentous occasion by inviting everyone to participate in the festivities as we mark the anniversary.

The week of June 26 through June 30, several facilities will host open houses or tours, as well as two historic howitzer fire demonstrations at 11 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and a cake cutting at 1 p.m. Friday in Kerwin Auditorium.

The Air Defense Artillery Training Support Facility will host tours at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The TSF houses displays used to teach air defense artillery students about the history of their branch.

“The Air Defense Artillery Training Support Facility is rarely open to the public,” said Keith Pannell, deputy public affairs officer, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill Public Affairs Office. “This is a chance for the public to see one-of-a-kind historic artifacts dating back to World War 1. It’s also a great chance to hear about the lessons our air defenders learned during each conflict that help make today’s United States Air Defense Artillery the best in the world.”

One of the rare items on display at the TSF is an 80-plus-years-old flag sewn by Soldiers who were in the 200th, 60th and 59th Coast Artillery.

“A bunch of the guys from the 200th, 59th and 60th had ended up in the Fukushima POW camp, which was a POW camp just outside the sleepy little town nobody had ever heard of called Hiroshima. So, they were just about 30 miles outside of town. When the world changed in August of 1940,” said Correy Twilley, director and curator, of the ADA TSF.

“The guards at the POW camp lived in the town. When they see the town disappear, their families are there so the guards just leave. And the first thing the POWs do is they get up on top of the buildings and they paint POW on top of the building, so they don't get bombed as well,” said Twilley. “Of course, the Army Air Corps is flying missions over Hiroshima because they're taking pictures and they find out there's a POW camp there.”

The Army Air Corps began dropping red, white and blue care packages to the POWs in August of 1945.

“One of the guys, Sgt. Clifford Omvedt, found some parachutes and he takes a tin can lid and he grinds it down and begins to cut these parachutes up into strips and they break into one of the rooms in the POW camp and they steal a sewing machine,” said Twilley. “They sit there and sew the strips all together into a 48- star flag. In September of 1945 they break into the guardhouse, and they steal this Japanese bugle and they form up into a battalion.”

What happened next is in Omvedt’s own words on a plaque next to the flag.

“A bugler sounded “To the Colors” as the Stars and Stripes were raised to the top of the staff. Tears streamed down the gaunt cheeks of every prisoner. Some of them were so weak from the starvation they were barely able to stand at attention…but every man rendered honors…I still feel a chill run down my spine when I think of it…that night I saw the American flag waving above us for the first time in four years,” said Omvedt, Color Bearer for Mukaishima Prison Camp.

Twilley said the flag flew over the POW camp four days before U.S. forces landed on mainland Japan to liberate them.

“So, this is the very first U.S. flag to ever fly over mainland Japan,” he said.

Visitors to the ADA TSF can see this one-of-a-kind flag and many other artifacts during one of the tours this week.

Other activities going on during the week include the Half Section Open House every hour from 9 to noon on Monday and Tuesday; Field Artillery Museum tour at 2 p.m. on Thursday; and tours of the Fort Sill Historic Landmark Museum, 435 Quanah Road, at 2 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.