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Wreath ceremony marks 100th death anniversary of Offutt Air Force Base namesake

Posted at 5:14 PM, Aug 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 18:47:49-04

U.S. and British military aviators joined the family of 1st Lt. Jarvis Offutt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery Monday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the World War I pilot for whom Offutt Air Force Base is named.

The 23-year-old died Aug. 13, 1918 — days within reaching the front — when the 56 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force plane he was piloting crashed near Valheureux, France. He was the first Omaha pilot killed in World War I, killed in action within days of reaching the front. 

The weekend's Defenders of Freedom Air and Space Show also paid tribute to Offutt this past weekend with a flag folding and presentation to the Offutt family by a military honor guard as well as a flyover in the missing-man formation.

Offutt attended Omaha Central High School. He joined the Army and went to flight school while attending Yale University, graduating in 1917.

Traveling to England in January 1918, he spent the next several months flying new planes from English factories to RAF units in France. In his last note home, Offutt told his mother, Bertha, that he was “in it at last,” according to a report in The World-Herald.

Offutt Air Force Base, formerly known as Fort Crook, was renamed for the fallen pilot in 1948. 

The 56 Squadron, for which Jarvis Offutt briefly flew, now flies the same RC-135 reconnaissance jets as the 55th Wing. Some of its crew train at Offutt.

The Omaha World-Herald contributed to this story.