The City of Ava is hosting a dedication ceremony at the Bill Martin Municipal Airport on Saturday, Oct. 20, to unveil a newly created sign marking the airport entrance. The event will start at 11:00 a.m.
The sign is designed by Bill Martin’s son, David, of California, who is an architect. According to Mayor David Norman, the new structure is a special design of cut-out stainless steel, with a blue tile background, and city councilman Burrely Loftin has worked closely with David to facilitate the new entrance marker. Loftin has also undertaken responsibility for the construction.
In recognition of the occasion, it is fitting to revisit the airport’s timeline, as well as reminisce about the outstanding career of former Vice Admiral William I. Martin, U. S. Navy.
According to articles in the Douglas County Herald, on October 1970, Willard Pueppke, chairman of the airport dedication committee announced the Ava Municipal Airport dedication ceremony would take place on Sunday, Oct. 18. The dedication and reception would honor Vice Admiral William I. Martin, U.S. Navy, however, the airport was not named after Martin until councilmen voted in March 1977, to recognize Ava’s native son. It was on June 3, 1979, that the municipal airport was officially named the Bill Martin Memorial Airport.
However, at the initial opening of the new airport, Vice Admiral Martin who served as Deputy Commander in Chief of the United States Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Virginia, at that time, was keynote speaker at the airport grand opening in 1970.
Martin was born in Ava, a son of the late Harry Martin and Ada (Inman) Martin. He spent his youth in Ava and completed high school here in 1927 before attending the Universities of Oklahoma and Missouri and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland from which he graduated in 1934. His early assignments were predominately in aircraft carrier squadrons.
Reminiscing about the past, Martin said that when he was a youngster, he was out in a plowed field, about a mile from the airport, spreading fertilizer by hand, when an old barnstormer came down over the field blowing dirt and fertilizer everywhere. The thought of that pilot up in the cool, clean air, and him down in that hot, dirty field, made him decide right then that someday he would fly.
Martin first flew over Douglas County in 1938 and thought how beautiful and interesting the scenery was. He yearned at the time to be able to land at Ava, but at that time it was necessary to land in Springfield and drive to Ava. Through the years he maintained an interest in his hometown.
During World War II, he commanded dive bomber, torpedo bomber and night fighter squadrons. He commanded the Navy’s first Night Carrier Air Group. All of his war time assignments were aboard the famous aircraft carrier USS Enterprise operating in the Pacific.
Martin spent three years as a test pilot at Patuxent River, Maryland, when jets were entering Naval Combat Aviation. Assignments as a Captain included commanding officers of the aircraft carrier USS Saipan and executive assistant and senior aide to the Chief of Naval Operations. After promotion to Rear Admiral in 1958, his assignments included Commander Atlantic Barrier Forces, Commander ASW Carrier Division Nineteen in the Pacific, Deputy Chief of the Military Assistance and Advisory Group in Bonn, Germany, Chief of Naval Air Reserve Training, Commander Carrier Division Two (Nuclear Task Force One) in the Mediterranean and Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Air.
He was Commander of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean in 1967 and 1968, a turbulent period which included the Greek Coup, the Cyprus crisis, the Arab-Israeli War and the Soviet Naval buildup in the Mediterranean. In September 1968, he assumed the duties of Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet and Chief of Staff, Atlantic Command.
Martin’s final assignment prior to retirement in 1971 was as the Deputy Comander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet. Vice Admiral Martin died in 1996 and is buried in Annapolis, MD.
Vice Admiral Martin has two sons, Richard Inman Martin and William David Martin.
His war time decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with two gold star, Air Medal with two gold stars, Navy Commendation Medal with combat device, Presidential Unit Citation with two stars and Navy Unit Commendation. He earned eleven stars for major combat operations, which are worn on his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon.
According to city officials, David Martin and his family will attend the dedication ceremony on October 20. The event is open to the public.