Honoring the Colorado airmen who joined WWII even before their country did

It's one thing to volunteer for war. It's another to volunteer to join the fight before your own country. That's what a group of Coloradans did.

NEXT WITH KYLE CLARK - Before U.S. airmen were called to duty in World War II, ten young men from Colorado were compelled to fight.

Some were just out of high school. Others left college early. They all crossed the border into Canada to join the war before their own country.

“This is the memory that we have to save, we have to cherish and we have to teach,” said Lance Barber, president of the Colorado Aviation Historical Society.

On Saturday, the Colorado Aviation Historical Society and the Bomber Command Museum of Canada will induct ten Coloradans into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.

“This means that the pilots have contributed to the aviation of the state of Colorado,” Barber said.

The inductees are: Luke Elbert Allen, Frank Raymond Boyles, James Campbell Davie, Billy Orin Gates, Leroy Gover, Robert Henry Hendrix, James Christian Nelson, Richard Earl Todd, Clyde Homer Jay, Jr. and Frederick Holbrook Mahn.

“They had to be at once motivated by an incredible sense of the need get involved, to fight against tyranny in favor of justice, and yet they had to be dealing with uncertainty and fear in respect to what they were getting into,” said Stephane Lessard, Consul General of Canada in Denver.

Lessard will be one of the Canadian representatives at the ceremony set for 10:30 a.m. at the Lakewood Country Club.

“[The airmen] were part of the Greatest Generation and we will never forget their sacrifice,” Lessard said.

The Colorado Aviation Historical Society invites any relatives of the inductees to join the ceremony. So far, the organization hasn't been able to get in touch with any of their family members. They hope some see this story and are able to join the ceremony on Saturday.

The Bomber Command Museum of Canada provided these short bios on the airmen who will be inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.

Luke Elbert Allen
Date of Birth: 27 September 1917

Before the war he was hired as a pilot by the Thompson Flying Service and made the move to Denver, Colorado. He joined the Royal Air Force in 1940, flew combat with the Eagle Squadrons and then joined the USAAF. He then flew in the Korean war in the USAF, then went on to corporate flying in Utah. He passed away in 2009 and is buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver.

Frank Raymond Boyles    
Date of Birth: July 24, 1920

Before WWII, Frank moved to Boulder and was attending the University of Colorado but joined the RAF in 1941. He was sent to England where he flew with the RAF Eagle Squadrons, then transferred to the USAAF in 1942 and flew Mustangs with the fourth Fighter Group in 1942-1943. He was shot down and killed-in-action in April 1944 over Germany and is buried in Belgium.

James Campbell Davie  
Date of Birth: 18 December 1920

James lived in Pueblo, Colorado with his family from 1926-1941 attending schools there. In the June of 1941, James joined the RCAF and went to Canada for flying training. He was just finishing his flying training and died of pneumonia in Toronto in October 1941. The RCAF, as the request of his family, returned James body to Pueblo where he is buried.

Billy Orin Gates  
Date of Birth: 10 January 1917

Billy was born in Berthoud, Colorado but attended all his schooling at Loveland. While attending Colorado State College in Fort Collins in 1940 he joined the USAAF cadet program but failed to pass, so joined the RCAF in late 1940. Billy successfully completed all his RCAF training in Canada in 1941 and was sent to England flying on Wellington bombers with RAF 214 Squadron until his combat death in April 1942. He is buried in Belgium.

Leroy Gover  
Date of Birth: 10 January 1917

For the first years of his life he lived in Loveland then after high school became a crop-duster pilot and was in California. He joined the RAF in August 1941 then was shipped overseas to England. Leroy flew with the RAF in the Eagle Squadrons then transferred to the USAAF in 1942. He flew combat in 1943 with the USAAF until returning to the USA. He remained in the USAF until 1962, then took up charter flying and flew until the 1990’s in California. He passed away in 1997.

Robert Henry Hendrix
Date of Birth: 4 June 1921

Robert’s family was from Arkansas but they settled in Walsenburg, Colorado where he graduated from Huerfano High School in 1941. He joined the RCAF in early 1941 and was stationed in Prince Albert Saskatchewan for his pilot training. He was killed in an accident in July 1941 and his body, at the request of the family, was returned to the USA where Robert is buried in the Masonic Cemetery, Walsenburg.

James Christian Nelson
Date of Birth: 18 July 1918

James was born in Greeley, Colorado and attended Loveland High School. He joined the RAF in 1941 and completed his training and flew with the RAF Eagle Squadrons in combat until 1943 when he became a highly qualified and ranked RAF test pilot in England until 1953. He returned to Loveland in 1953 and became a Colorado government official. He passed away in 1971 in Loveland

Richard Earl Todd
Date of Birth: 19 May 1919

Richard was born in Colorado Springs and raised until graduating from Cheyenne High School in 1938. He then attended college in Texas until joining the RCAF in September 1941. He completed his RCAF pilot training in 1942 and was sent to England and joined RCAF 426 Squadron flying Wellington bombers in early March 1943. He was shot down in late March 1943 and is buried in Holland.

Clyde Homer Jay Jr.
Date of Birth: 23 May 1916

Clyde Homer Jay attended all his schooling in Denver graduation from East Denver High School in 1934 then attended Colorado College from 1936 to 1938. He joined the RCAF in October 1940 and was sent overseas to England in October 1941. He joined RCAF 415 Squadron of Coastal Command flying Hampden twin-engine bombers on anti-shipping patrols. He was killed in action coming back to England in March 1942 and is buried in Sussex, England with his bomber crew.

Frederick Holbrook Mahn
Date of Birth: 26 July 1916

Frederick did all his schooling in Denver and attended East Denver High School graduating in 1933. He then went on to the Colorado School of Mines and Harvard University. He joined the RCAF in October 1940 and was trained in Canada in 1941. He was assigned overseas to RCAF 415 Squadron flying Hampden bombers. He was shot down and survived 2 weeks in the English Channel but lost his lower legs to injuries. He died of medical complications in March 1946 and is buried near his Denver high school friend and squadron mate Clyde Jay in Sussex, England. 

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