Visiting Wheatfield, New York: commemorating aviation and military heritage
Local sacrifice remembered at the Veterans' Monument
This article follows a visit to the Veterans' Monument at Wheatfield, New York. This memorial display area is situated at the town's Highway Department on Ward Road.
War memorial inscription
The inscription on the war memorial itself reads as follows:
'IN MEMORY OF THE MEN OF THE TOWN OF WHEATFIELD WHO DIED IN THE WORLD WARS
At the foot of the monument, the following has also been added:
Military hardware on display at this memorial area is a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter and a tank in good condition; my efforts to identify the tank type have so far been unsuccessful.
The Iroquois helicopter airframe is complete with rotors. The Bell UH-1 displays a plaque to the memory of local man Navy Ensign Timothy Hanusin, who was lost at sea during an American-Canadian military exercise off the Oregon coast in September 1990.
Bell airplane manufacture plant in Wheatfield
Interestingly, Bell airplanes were previously manufactured in Wheatfield. Formerly situated in the town was the Bell AeroSpace Company.
The P-39 Airacobra
In World War 2, the Bell P-39 Airacobra was an airplane type associated with war industrial production in the town's large Bell plant. The P-39 was notable for having introduced important innovations into aircraft design, including the use of a tricycle undercarriage.
At the prototype stage, the P-39 was flown by Tex Johnston, then a test pilot with Bell, and later with Boeing.
The ill-fated X-2
After World War 2, the important research aircraft the X-2 'Starbuster' was built at Bell's Wheatfield plant. Only two of these airplane types were built, and, tragically, both of them crashed, killing their test pilots, Jean 'Skip' Ziegler and Captain Milburn G 'Mel' Apt.
In the history of aviation, however, the Bell X-2 proved important as a record breaker and as the predecessor of the X-15 rocket plane, which was to perform amazingly. Even prior to the tragic losses of the X-2 airframes, however, the X-2 set altitude and speed records: during flights in September 1956, a speed of Mach 3.196 (2,094 mph, 3,370 km/h) and a ceiling of 126,200 feet (38,466 metres).
The loss in May 1953 of the first X-2, piloted by the tragic 'Skip' Ziegler, occurred quite locally to Wheatfield: over nearby Lake Ontario. Although his memory is honoured elsewhere, I do not know whether a memorial to 'Skip' Ziegler has ever been contemplated at Wheatfield, where his X-2 — never recovered from the bed of Lake Ontario — was built.
Also worth seeing
Bergholz hamlet (distance: 3.2 kilometres) is the site of an historic German Lutheran Settlement. 'Das Haus' German Heritage Museum at Bergholz is sponsored by the Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York.
Niagara Falls , New York (distance: 15.3 kilometres). The American Falls may be viewed to really good effect from the Niagara Falls State Park. The United Office Building , built in 1929 in Art Deco style, incorporates Mayan artwork into its facade. The US Post Office, Niagara Falls, New York, is an outstanding example of early 20th century Beaux Arts architecture.
Lewiston (distance: 19.7 kilometres) downstream from Niagara Falls, New York, on the Niagara River. The historic Frontier House, which in its day was classed as an outstanding hotel, is one of a number of noted features. The first railway in the United States was built here in 1764, when carts, which were pulled by ropes, were drawn along wooden rails.
How to get there:
A number of airlines fly to Niagara Falls International Airport (distance from Wheatfield: 5 kilometres) from various destinations in the Southern United States. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance from Wheatfield: 27.6 kilometres). I-190 is the nearest Interstate to Niagara Falls, New York, linking near Buffalo, NY with I-290 and I-90 to Albany, NY. From Canada, accessible via the Rainbow Bridge, the QEW links Niagara Falls, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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