Historic World War II tower restored to its original glory

Published: Thursday, May 31 2012 6:49 p.m. MDT

The World War II control tower at Wendover was rededicated on Thursday, May 31, 2012, at the Wendover Airport. The tower has been repainted, windows have been replaced back to the original WWII configuration and the interior of the tower has been refurbished.

Alex Cabrero, Deseret News

WENDOVER — The old control tower in Wendover, which helped direct B-29 bombers during training runs during World War II, was rededicated Thursday.

A group of fourth-graders was invited to take part in a special ceremony for the newly restored control tower at the Historic Wendover Airfield.

“It’s been up since World War II, and I can’t believe it’s still standing,” fourth-grader Itzel Coriea said. She climbed the 80 or so steps to the top. She’d seen the tower before, but not looking so new with fresh paint.

Windows were replaced back to the original WWII configuration and the interior of the tower was refurbished. Those who restored the tower wanted it to look just like it did in the 1940s. The tower was originally built in 1942 and was used by generations of pilots in war and peace time.

“It’s just a symbol of the progress we’re making in restoring this famous World War II airfield,” said James Petersen with the Historic Wendover Airfield Foundation.

He's hoping it'll become a national historic area one day, and since the Enola Gay, the plane that bombed Japan during World War II, was once based here, he thinks restoring it all is important.

"When we have veterans come here and they look at what we've done, literally, they get tears in their eyes," Petersen said. 

The tower rededication is proof that Wendover is more than just slot machines and poker. “You could come out here and spend a day just at the airport looking at all the buildings, reliving the history,” Wendover resident John Spillman said.

The foundation is working to restore the Sr. Master Sgt. John T. Brinkman Service Club. The officers club and mess hall was one of the focal points of the base in its heyday.

According to the foundation, this building is one of only possibly two or three of its kind left in America today. Restoration work began a little over a year ago and is a third complete.

Crews and volunteers have been working on the Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar for several years. Work to stabilize the 50,000 square-foot main hangar at the Wendover Airfield in western Utah was completed nearly two years ago.

The hangar once housed B-29 Superfortresses the Enola Gay and Bockscar before they dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945 during World War II.

The airfield got a $511,000 Save America's Treasures grant to preserve the hangar and was put on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's list of America's 11 most endangered public places in 2009.

New windows help to protect the interior and the original plank doors into the engine workshops have been restored.

After the war, Wendover was used for training exercises and as a research facility, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Air Force closed the facility down in 1969.

Contributing:  Viviane Vo-Duc

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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