Hendricks Field, the predecessor to Sebring International Raceway and Sebring Regional Airport, was honored Friday at a special ground-breaking ceremony. The ceremony kicked off a funding campaign to preserve and enhance the original military airbase flagpole and surrounding area, which will be known as Hendricks Field Memorial Park.
A WWII United State Army Air Force base, Hendricks Field opened in 1942 and played a vital role in training B-17 combat crews and supporting personnel. Originally called the Sebring Basic Flying School, the name was changed to Hendricks Field in honor of Lt. Laird Hendricks, a Floridian who was killed while training Royal Air Force pilots in England. Several thousand men who trained at Hendricks Field served in the European and Pacific war fronts, with an estimated one-fourth never returning.
The sacrifices made by all the men and women who served here must be remembered,” Wayne Estes, president of Sebring International Raceway, said. “This ceremony kicks-off a funding campaign to complete our vision of a park-like setting that appropriately pays tribute to this important time in our history.
The original 72-foot Hendricks Field flagpole, which served as the geographical center of the base, still stands behind Turn 3 of the famous Sebring International Raceway circuit. Plans for Hendricks Field Memorial Park include landscaping, lighting, and fencing. Lisa Celentano with Sebring International Raceway will lead the fund-raising campaign. Celentano can be contacted at 863-655-7713.