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Memorial to honor 'Operation Sleigh Ride' dead

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Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2011 6:00 am

MOSES LAKE - Ground is being broken for a granite and basalt memorial project at 1 p.m., Saturday honoring 87 airmen who died at Larson Air Force Base.

The airmen were flying to Texas during the Christmas holiday as part of the Air Force's "Operation Sleigh Ride" in 1952.

The C-124A Globemaster carrying them crashed shortly after takeoff, resulting in the deaths of 87 out of 115 passengers.

The ceremony honoring the dead is held to the left of the Grant County International Airport in front of Sonico's building. The airport is at 7810 Andrews St. NE, Moses Lake.

The public is invited to attend the hour-long event to hear speakers and learn more about the project.

Funds are being raised for the approximately $20,000 memorial, said Mike Bellgardt, a member of the Moses Lake Lions Club.

About $8,600 in donations have been gathered, he said.

"The main thing we wanted to accomplish, is (raising) $7,200 as down payment for the granite," he said.

Organizers wanted to have the granite cut from mountains in Idaho before winter started.

Although the granite is coming from Idaho, organizers are striving to obtain other supplies from Moses Lake, he said.

All of the concrete work is done by Columbia Basin Job Corps students.

Once completed, the memorial features a basalt column holding three granite pieces. The center piece shows a picture of the airplane, with the other two pieces listing the passengers killed in the crash.

The memorial is 87 inches tall, for the 87 passengers, and 52 inches wide, for the year 1952.

The memorial was designed by community members serving on the memorial committee and Scott Carver, of Carver Funeral Home. The granite company also helped with ideas.

For more information, call 208-329-6233, email 87forgottenheroes@gmail.com, or find "Forgotten Heroes Memorial" on Facebook.

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