Family members of Second Lieutenant George Whiteman have been visiting two symbolic sculptures in west-central Missouri’s Sedalia. The artwork is inspired by Airman Whiteman’s ultimate sacrifice and the community’s strong relationship with the military. The 22-year-old Sedalia native was the first airborne pilot killed in Japan’s December 7, 1941 surprise attack on the U.S. naval base of Pearl Harbor.
Whiteman’s niece, Gayle Kent, tells Missourinet the artwork helps to keep Whiteman’s memory alive.
“He just went. ‘I’m going. I’m getting that plane out of here.’ He died doing what he loved to do,” says Kent.
One sculpture represents a P-40 Warhawk plane flown by Whiteman and points toward his childhood home in Sedalia. Another that sits next to it is of a B-2 stealth bomber. Whiteman Air Force Base in the neighboring community of Knob Noster is the home of the B-2 stealth bomber. Together, the sculptures are called “Whiteman: Legacy of Freedom.”
They were constructed by Sedalia artist Don Luper and stand in Katy Park at 24th Street and Park Avenue.
Kent says Sedalia has embraced Whiteman’s service to his country, including an annual service honoring all U.S. soldiers. Other community efforts memorializing Whiteman include the naming of Whiteman Air Force Base after him, a plaque that sits at his childhood home, a “Shadow” sculpture on the State Fair Community College campus and Whiteman’s gravesite in Sedalia’s Memorial Park Cemetery.