Richard L. West Terminal Building
January 12, 2002
On Saturday, January 12, 2002, a ceremony dedicated the
airport terminal as the "Richard L. West Terminal Building." Dick West is a
legendary fighter ace from the Pacific Theater during World War II, where he shot down 14
confirmed Japanese aircraft. West was also credited with three "probable"
victories over Japanese aircraft, making him the first ace of the 35th Fighter Squadron.
West went on to become a "double ace" and was only one shoot-down shy of
becoming a "triple ace." West also authored a book of poetry now in its third
board member, Fred Simmer, referred to West's 175 combat missions and the fact that,
amazingly, West encountered enemy aircraft on only eight of those 175 missions. All told,
West was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest award in the military
- the only award higher than the Distinguished Service Cross is the Congressional Medal of
Honor), the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight air medals, and two
Missouri Senator David Klindt and Rep. John Quinn also spoke at the ceremony.
U.S. Army Col. George Seek was also present, representing Maj. Gen. John Clarke, the
commander of the U.S. Army's 5th Army, based in San Antonio, Texas.
West's daughter, Lynda West, a professor at George Washington University in
Washington, D.C., gave a speech in honor of her father. "Chillicothe was always
in my father's heart, whether he was in the South Pacific in an airplane fighting a war,
working here, or living out his golden years. I remember asking him as a young child why
we lived in Chillicothe. His answer was 'One day after a rough battle, I promised God that
if I survived the war, I would come back and never leave again, I knew then this is where
I belonged.' If I didn't understand his answer then, I certainly do today. Dad, you've
always been my hero. Today, you are everyone's hero."
The Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 944 of Chillicothe made West an
honorary lifetime member of the chapter. West's wife, Norma, thanked the 200 people who attended and thanked the
speechmakers. West was presented with a plaque inscribed with the same words that are on
the bronze plaque at the entrance to the airport terminal building. The framed replica
plaque given to West was donated by Lauhoff Jewelry and the Chillicothe Elks Lodge. Dick
grew up on a farm near Chula, Missouri. He was called the "Samson of the
Pacific" because he vowed that he would not get his hair cut until he shot down his
first Japanese aircraft. He is truly a member of the greatest generation.
Special thanks to the Chillicothe
Constitution Tribune for the story and two photos.