|The Hendricks Field Memorial Park Stands at What Was the Center of the WWII Airfield Training BaseMarch 16, 2023By Mark RobinsonIMSA NewsWire|
SEBRING, Fla. – Hundreds of heroes have created their legacy over seven decades of racing at Sebring International Raceway. Before that, thousands of military members prepared to take on heroic tasks in World War II when the racetrack site served as a U.S. Army airfield training base.
To commemorate the efforts and sacrifice of those brave veterans, officials from IMSA, the track, the city of Sebring and others gathered Wednesday evening to dedicate Hendricks Field Memorial Park, a small circular greenway in the track’s infield that was once the literal center hub of the airbase.
Hendricks Field was constructed in the second half of 1941, completed just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the U.S. into World War II. It was the first U.S. Army training base for the B-17 bomber known as the “Flying Fortress.” According to Wayne Estes, president of Sebring International Raceway, more than 10,000 pilots trained at Hendricks from 1942-45 as well as thousands of navigators, bombardiers, gunners, paratroopers, instructors, soldiers and support personnel.The city of Sebring took over the property when the airfield closed after the war in 1945. Five years later, the first endurance race was conducted on the old runways, launching another legacy that continues this weekend with the 71st running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
IMSA and Sebring officials never lost sight of the original purpose for the property and worked in recent years to restore the area dedicated Wednesday where the original Hendricks Field flagpole still stands.“The world was at war and Hendricks Field played a significant role in winning the war in both Europe and in the Pacific,” Estes said. “At the center of Hendricks Field, troops looked to the top of this very flagpole to see the stars and stripes flying proudly as it still does here at Sebring Raceway today.“It is obvious that Sebring International Raceway would not be here without the foundation of Hendricks Field,” Estes added, “and the freedoms that we know, that much of the world knows, owe so much not just to those who trained here to serve overseas but to all who fought and continue to fight, and in many cases died, to preserve those freedoms. This evening we rededicate this small piece of land to honor and remember those who stepped up and continue to step up to turn back those who threaten the freedom that this country has known for almost 250 years.”A pair of WWII veterans attended the ceremony that also included a presentation from Honor and Remember, an organization dedicated to recognizing the service of fallen military members. Executive Director George Lutz presented an Honor and Remember flag to Inez Ortiz, whose son David Brangman was killed while serving in Iraq in 2005.