Seventy years overdue, Shoreview woman receives award in father’s honor

A photo of Jan Plumb and her late father William Haier inspired Plumb to learn more about her father’s service with the Civil Air Patrol. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
A photo of Jan Plumb and her late father William Haier inspired Plumb to learn more about her father’s service with the Civil Air Patrol. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Plumb’s three children and son-in-law were able to watch their mother accept the award for a grandfather they never got a chance to meet. Rep. Tom Emmer, middle, presented the award to Plumb. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Plumb’s three children and son-in-law were able to watch their mother accept the award for a grandfather they never got a chance to meet. Rep. Tom Emmer, middle, presented the award to Plumb. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Haier’s death made the local news of the day. (submitted photo)
Haier’s death made the local news of the day. (submitted photo)

It started with a photo. Jan Plumb opened a box from her mom labeled "open when you have time." Inside was a photo of her and her late father, Lt. William Haier, that she had never seen before.

"I got to this and I just couldn’t get any further. That was so tender for me that I just had a few tears," Plumb says.

The photo made Plumb want to learn more about Haier’s past as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol during World War II.

Her digging would lead to her dad being posthumously honored with the CAP Congressional Gold Medal on Oct. 23 at the Blaine Public Works building.

One final mission

Plumb said her dad wanted to enlist in the Army but was unable to because he was colorblind. "My dad so badly wanted to be in the Army," she says.

On Dec. 1, 1941, CAP was founded to fill in for pilots recruited to fight in World War II. CAP pilots performed aviation and other services, according to Col. Kevin Sliwinski, a government relations officer for Minnesota Wing Civil Air Patrol.

Plumb says her father jumped at the opportunity presented by CAP and enlisted right at the beginning.

Some three years later, on April 30, 1944, Haier and Capt. George Main were in a two-seater Army airplane flying to Duluth from the Twin Cities to train CAP cadets.

On the return flight home, their plane went down near Stacy due to bad weather. Plumb says they must have crashed not very far from the highway, because her dad was able to crawl from the wreckage to the highway.

Still, Haier died the next day, May 1, 1944. Plumb was 11 years old.

CAP Congressional Gold Medal

After finding that photo in the box, Plumb decided to learn more about her father's service as a CAP lieutenant and about the organization he was a part of.

"I didn't know there was even an organization still called the Civil Air Patrol. I didn’t know that was still active," Plumb says, adding there are still quite a few CAP chapters in Minnesota.

Today, CAP provides search and rescue, aerospace education and cadet program for youth.

In her search for more information about CAP, she discovered the CAP Congressional Gold Medal.

"It was on the telephone that [Sliwinski] said 'If you can document that he was killed in this mission, you could qualify for an award.' From then on it got legs and wings and everything else," Plumb says.

Even though CAP was founded nearly three quarters of a century ago, this award is fairly new. Sliwinski says five years ago a bill was introduced to Congress to recognize CAP members who served in WWII — including surviving family members of the 65 who died during the war.

Following some parliamentary starts and stops, in June 2014, the bill was signed into law, with all Minnesota delegates supporting the bill.

To be considered for the award one must have served in CAP between Dec. 1, 1941 and Sept. 3, 1945 and have proof of their service.

Finally honored

Plumb accepted the award on behalf of her father Oct. 23.

"He was most excited about Civil Air Patrol. I'm almost positive in 1941, when it was started, he was first in line,” Plumb says.

Plumb says her dad went on all the missions he could and that she was very proud of him.

Rep. Tom Emmer presented the award to Plumb. He said this is long overdue, 70 years after the fact.

Said Emmer: "This dashing young man that actually gave his life in service to his county is finally getting recognized."

If you believe you or a family member qualifies for the award, call the Minnesota Wing Civil Air Patrol at 651-291-0462 or email Sliwinski at gr@mncap.org.

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or staffwriter@lillienews.com.

 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here