CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A World War II hero will have his day in the spotlight, as the West Virginia National Guard names its air base in honor of him.
Ret. Brig. General James Kemp McLaughlin will be on hand Saturday as the Guard renames the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, the McLaughlin Air National Guard Base.
McLaughlin attended a news conference Wednesday to talk about the honor.
“I’m 95-years-old. My days are over and gone. I realize it is a great honor to pay me at this late stage in my life,” explained McLaughlin. “I can’t say I was greatly excited cause I’m just too old to get excited anymore.”
McLaughlin, who was born in Braxton County, entered the war in 1942. State Adjutant General James Hoyer stressed McLaughlin participated in “some of the most significant air campaigns in World War II.”
“The raid on the ball bearing facility in [Schweinfurt] Germany, the raid on the facility in Norway that helped stem the German ability to develop the atomic bomb and support to our ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge,” listed off Hoyer.
McLaughlin is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross with three silver oak leaf clusters. Hoyer said many in the West Virginia Air Guard had no idea who McLaughlin was and that needed to change.
“We felt that it was more than appropriate to memorialize the service of General McLaughlin and his contributions to the Air National Guard in West Virginia but more importantly to the defense of this nation,” according to Hoyer.
McLaughlin was just 23 when he flew his first combat mission, as a B-17 co-pilot. He served his country for 37-years, 30 of those as the commander of the state’s first Air National Guard Squadron.
Last year, the West Virginia National Guard named the new armory in Fairmont after World War II Medal of honor recipient Hershel Woody Williams.