The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma

Lives, Loves, and Courage of the British Air Crews
Trained in Oklahoma During World War II

The Royal Air Force in Oklahoma


Limited Copies Available (Now out of Print)

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About the Book

Citizens of Ponca City, Oklahoma, located in the north central part of the state, and their neighbors in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Miami, never could have dreamed of the impact that their communities would have on the lives of thousands of Royal Air Force pilots who found themselves training over Oklahoma prairies during World War II. Neither could they have realized the role the Brits would come to play in their lives as well.

The two schools, part of six which were established in the United States as a result of the Lend-Lease Act of March, 1941, were built by civilian companies under the leadership of Hal Darr, who established Darr School of Aeronautics in Ponca City and Captain Maxwell Balfour, CEO for Spartan School of Aeronautics in Miami. These schools, under the direction of capable Royal Air Force officers, were taught by American civilian flying instructors. United States Army Air Force cadets also trained while the two schools operated in Oklahoma.

Paula Carmack Denson explores the history of both schools and their people as she reveals a colorful cast of characters, many forgotten, whose stories remain an important part of a world which has slipped past us. Using letters purchased in an estate auction and which acted as catalysts for her research, Denson has provided an intimate look into a world which existed over half a century ago.

The chronicle, which has taken her to England four times, provides a historic, well documented glimpse into the lives of people, both English and American. These loveable, fun-loving, intriguing, generous, and devoted heroes and heroines deserve to be remembered. The book details the warmth and exceeding hospitality of Oklahoma families as they "adopted" the homesick cadets and provided them with the warmth of friendship, delicious food, transportation and shelter. It also provides insight into the love stories that developed for some of the British men who were so far from home. Fascinating and touching stories and photos abound.

Readers will be able to reminiscence of days gone by as they gaze at pictures which record the every day events unfolding in the lives of the British cadets and their American counterparts. If ever there was an Oklahoma story which needed to be preserved during the state's centennial celebration, this deserves to be nominated.

The Story Behind the Book

I suppose it was blind luck that I attended an estate auction in 1997 and came away with a two-dollar shoebox full of old letters. They were postmarked from various locations in Great Britain during the years 1942 through 1947. I was curious about their contents because that was during the time of my birth, so I decided to learn more about the authors of these letters. It was only after I actually sifted through them much later that I became aware that most were written by men who trained at Darr School. They were written to one of the families who hosted the British while they were in Ponca City. I began to research and found some of the men who wrote these letters. I have met some of the writers and their family members and I have established friendships all over the world. What a thrill to actually meet some of my heroes!

With the generous help of many, I have become addicted to learning more and more about their involvement with Oklahoma. Recently, my research has expanded to include learning about the northeastern Oklahoma town of Miami, Oklahoma and their role in hosting No. 3 BFTS at Spartan School of Aeronautics. Eventually, with only a little knowledge about how to begin a book, and the help of many talented people, I was launched into a publishing project which seems especially appropriate as Oklahomans celebrate their centennial. The time is right for the story of these brave young men to come to light and so I leave it with you to enjoy. As my British friends would say "Tails Up"!

-Paula K. Denson

About the Author

The author, a native of Ponca City, Oklahoma, received her associate degree from the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, Baylor College of Dentistry, Dallas, Texas, in 1965. After a professional career of thirty years in the field of dentistry, she established a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the history of north central Oklahoma. Under her guidance, a two-volume, national award-winning history, Rooted in The Past—Growing For the Future, was published by North Central Oklahoma Historical Association in 1995.

During the time this book was compiled, Denson also formed a wedding and special events rental company which she owned for ten years. She is a board member and the chairman of restoration for Friends of Marland's Grand Home, a member of the Pioneer Genealogy Society, the Ponca City Chapter of the American Revolution, the Ponca City Art Association, the Pioneer Area Quilter's Guild, and the First Presbyterian Church, where she has served three terms as an elder.

She and her husband live on a farm originally part of the famed 101 Miller Brothers' Ranch, where her husband raises Black Angus cattle and where she pursues her hobbies of quilting, sewing, interior decoration, and genealogical and historical research. The couple also enjoy their daughter, son-in-law, and three granddaughters.