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Veterans Day 2020: Group wants to create museum

A group of people are continuing their work of creating a place for Ironton-born World War I ace pilot Col. William “Bill” Carpenter Lambert.

Formally known as the William C. Lambert Military Museum and Archive, it would commemorate his achievements and other Tri-State military people.

While they are still trying to find a building, the committee will be putting an exhibit of some of Lambert’s things on display in the Ironton City Building.

“We are going to try to have it in there by Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11,” said Brent Pyles, the current president and one of the founding members of the museum. He said they have already cleared it with Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit and there is a placard already up and four display cases that will feature such things as one of Lambert’s military uniforms.

“The display committee is in the process of deciding what we are going to put in the display cases,” Pyles said.

The museum organized as a non-profit group in October 2018. They eventually hope to find a physical space in Ironton to display some of Lambert’s and other military veterans’ memorabilia.

“We started out by using Col. Lambert because he is probably one of the best-known military figures in the area,” Pyles said.

According to Ashland, Ky. historian and friend of Lambert, Bill Martin, the future pilot got his interest in flying from watching the turkeys on his family farm. His interest in flying was furthered by a pilot who was visiting Ironton in 1910 or so in his Wright biplane.

When the pilot was ready to leave, the engine wouldn’t start and Lambert hung out with the pilot as he made repairs, bringing him food and tools. The grateful pilot took Lambert up on a test flight and even let the young Lambert fly a little bit, an event that probably made Lambert the first Irontonian to pilot an aircraft.

During World War I, Lambert left Ironton to go to join the British Royal Flying Corps in 1917. He eventually registered 18 air-to-air victories in 1918.

Lambert would receive a Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to Royal Air Force pilots who showed acts of valor while engaging the enemy. He is believed to be the second-ranked Ace pilot of the war, only eight victories behind fellow Ohioan pilot Eddie Rickenbacker.

Lambert once crashed down behind enemy lines after his plane ran out of fuel because a stray bullet put a hole in the fuel tank. After crashing, Lambert ripped his timing watch off the instrument panel and then ran back to the Allied lines without being shot or captured.

After the war was over, Lambert returned to Ironton and became a barnstormer, putting on shows with his aircraft around the Midwest. Ironton Tribune columnist Don Lee, who knew Lambert, described barnstorming as “flying low over a town to get attention. Then, the pilot would land in a pasture field close by and take people on rides in the plane. The planes were invariably WWI trainers called ‘Jennys.’ They were available after WWI as surplus for a few hundred dollars.”

When World War II started, Lambert enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and remained with the service until his retirement in 1954 as a lieutenant colonel.

In 1973, he published “Combat Report,” a book that covered his experiences as a war pilot.

Lambert was also known for having a patent on a prop that attached to a pipe and rested on the chin.

Lambert passed away in 1982, at the age of 87.

He and his wife, Chloe Ann Hale Lambert are buried in the Woodland Cemetery in Ironton. Lambert designed the mausoleum that they were entombed in.

The museum is looking to collect more of Lambert’s artifacts before they are lost or destroyed. If you know of something that you or a friend might have, contact Joe Unger at Unger’s Shoe Store at 740-532-5954. He can guide you on the procedure to contribute the item or to loan it on a long-term basis. 

Pyles was quick to point out that the Lambert museum was not something that is in competition with the Lawrence County Museum and their mission.

“If anything, it is to compliment the museum,” he said. “We hope this will bring people to Ironton. A lot of people are interested in our veterans and memorializing them. We are going to do this right.”