Hero War-time Pilot Returns to Sky Harbor
When California native George “Bud” Barnett arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 1942, it was certainly a different place. A handful of airlines operated at Sky Harbor including, American, TWA, Carl Knier’s Sky Harbor Air Service and Southwest Airways, Inc. For Bud, a young man at the age of 18, he was embarking on an exciting adventure. Bud started as a Navy cadet before joining the Marine Corp., and arrived in Phoenix in June of 1942 to learn how to fly.
Staying at the Windsor Hotel for two months, Bud and his colleagues would get up and go to school for classes before being bused to Sky Harbor for their flight lessons. Though Sky Harbor was less frequently called “The Farm” in the 1940s, there still was not much around the Airport.
“We always took off to the West,” Bud said. “And, we would turn left and see nothing but sagebrush. There were orange groves out near Apache Junction and the U.S. 60.”
Bud learned to fly rotor and fixed-wing aircraft. He said that flight training at Sky Harbor went smoothly and was enjoyable.
“It was such a thrill to learn how to fly,” Bud said. “I flew the Cub and we would do spins and recoveries.”
On a recent visit to Sky Harbor, Bud shared with Phoenix Airport Museum staff some of his stories and gave them a look at his log books. He also read a letter he wrote to his parents on August 17, 1942, in which he described the summer weather as “a blast furnace.” Indeed, there were only swamp coolers back then.
Bud served in World War II as a Marine bomber pilot. He flew B-25’s and PBJs in the Philippines. For his valiant efforts, he received two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
After the War, Bud returned to the States and headed to Boston where he studied Fine Arts and learned how to be a silversmith and jeweler. He returned to California and started a shop where he worked for almost a year before receiving a letter to report to Los Alamitos to take a physical. Bud ended up in helicopter training before being sent to Korea.
During the Korean War, Bud flew night evacuations. He was again decorated for his heroic efforts and received another Distinguished Flying Cross. Additionally, Bud was awarded nine Air Medals during his service.
He recalls one particular instance that he was very proud of, for which he was awarded a medal. After one of the pilots went out to pick up two evacuees, he crashed into a mountain. The weather was not the greatest, but Bud volunteered to fly out and pick up the two evacuees as well as the pilot. He told the pilot he would come back for him after dropping off the two that needed medical attention. Because they couldn’t carry maps, the pilots had to memorize spots of where they were located. Upon his return, it took a little time for Bud to find the pilot, but he was found and brought back to camp.
After the Korean War, Bud returned to California. He had logged 1,500 hours when he retired from flying. In the late 1970s, Bud and his late wife, Connie, visited the Prescott area and enjoyed it. They decided to make it their home in the mid-90s, and by 1998, had a home built. Bud still resides in Prescott.
Above and to the right, from left to right: George W. Barnett (Bud’s son), Bud, Carl McCroy (Bud’s son-in-law) and Devon McCroy (Bud’s daughter).
Published: November 5, 2012