Monument honors WWII airmen who trained in Columbia - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Monument honors WWII airmen who trained in Columbia

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WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

It's a period in history often forgotten, the casualties of World War II.

Wednesday 230 aviators were memorialized, having lost their lives in training in Columbia.

Two and half years ago it was an area near Columbia Metropolitan Airport cluttered with trash. Today it's a WWII memorial dedicated to airmen serving at the Columbia Air Base who lost their lives in training.

"There was 230 that was killed in routine training," said organizer William Jones. "And they had two satellite fields. One was in Walterboro, one was in Congaree air base which is now McEntire Air National Guard Base."

Jones helped clear up the trash that sat at the base of a flag pole. He raised money to honor the forgotten Army Air Corp casualties.

"230 people is a lot of people who got killed," said Jones. "There's a lot of grandchildren, great grandchildren who can come here and look at this monument to honor these people."

 They include one woman and four Tuskegee Airmen from across the nation. And also a relative of Jackie Neal.

"He would have been my husband's uncle -- was the lone Columbian killed here at the base in a crash," said Neal. "And his name was Lt. Thomas F. Neal."

Neal held on to his picture, trumpet, coat and cap. Now she has another way to remember the man who selflessly gave his life at 20 years old.

"They've never been recognized at all," said Neal.

"It means a whole lot to me to be able to recognize them," said WWII veteran Xen Motsinger. "They have not had any recognition in all the 40 years. We're just -- it's great to have the opportunity to do so."

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