This was one of the happiest days of my life,” Dean Lanphere recalled, looking at his self portrait taken 71 years ago.
The photograph was taken just a few minutes after Lanphere’s wife, Geneva, pinned his wings on his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform. It was May 15, 1943.
“I thought I was the hottest thing on earth on that day,” he said with a grin. “That was a long time ago. I was so young and a hot rod back then.”
Shortly after the picture was taken, Lanphere was deployed to Sydney, Australia.
The newly minted bomber pilot arrived with swagger.
“I remember a major telling me when I arrived there, ‘Hey, fly boy. You think you are the greatest on earth?’ ” he said.
Lanphere, who was then 23 years old then, walked quietly away from the Air Corps major and did not say a word. He would let his actions speak for him — 58 times over enemy territory.
A small town boy
As a child, Lanphere was raised by his grandparents in Lyndon, Ill., a small town about 80 miles north of Peoria.
He moved in with his grandparents after his parents got divorced. His dad was an alcoholic. His mom contracted tuberculosis when he was 4 1/2 years old and put into a Springfield, Ill., hospital.
Lanphere continued to live with his grandparents even after his mom was healed and remarried.
His grandfather was employed as a section foreman with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, he recalled. His grandmother stayed at home.
Lanphere graduated from Lyndon High School.
“There were eight girls and five boys in my graduating class,” he said.
While in high school, he met his future wife, Geneva, who lived in a nearby town along the Rock River.
“I guess you can say we were high school sweethearts,” he said and smiled.
After graduating from high school in 1940, Lanphere moved to Washington, D.C., and took a civil service job, which had a $1,440 annual salary. After he worked there six months, he received a $180 pay raise.
“That was good money back then,” he said.
He and Geneva got married in 1941 and moved to Chicago.
On Dec. 7, 1941, he and Geneva were watching Andy Devine perform at the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago.
After Devine’s act, it was announced Pearl Harbor had been attacked, Lanphere recalled. It was a day he will never forget.
“I can still hardly believe it happened,” he said. “It was a very, very bad deal.”
Lanphere enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps a day after reading a Jan. 20, 1942 article in theChicago Tribune. The article stated a married man with a high school education could now become a pilot. Up to that time, the Air Corps required all pilots to have a college degree.
Lanphere didn’t hesitate to sign up.
“Ever since I was a young kid, I wanted to become a pilot,” he said.
Shortly after earning his wings, Lanphere was sent to the South Pacific.
Lanphere said he and his crewmates had to fight two enemies — the Japanese and the weather. The U.S. air base in New Guinea was located 2 degrees south of the equator, he said.
“During one mission I could not even see my wing tips for 3 1/2 hours,” Lanphere said.“And we had equatorial storms every damn day.”
Lanphere flew 58 missions before he was discharged from the service on Sept. 15, 1944.
Lanphere said his bombing unit was the only unit in U.S. World War II to fly B-26, B-25 and B-24 airplanes.
“It’s really amazing what happened (to me),” he said. “…But I was lucky. I was able to come home before (Japan) started the kamikaze stuff.”
After serving 15 months in the South Pacific, Lanphere said he requested and was granted his discharge.
“I wanted to see my 1-year-old daughter really badly,” he said. “I still can hear my commanding officer grant my request. But he also informed me at the time, if I agreed to stay in, he would promote me to captain in three more weeks.”
Lanphere did not reconsider his decision. He boarded a ship and headed to San Francisco.
It took 21 days for the ship to make the journey. A week after arriving stateside, he took a train to Chicago. He then took a train to Sterling, Ill., where his wife and daughter, Denise, were waiting. Shortly after Lanphere got off the train, he recalled his wife asking him to hold their baby.
“I asked her how,” he said and laughed. “I never held a baby before.”
He and and Geneva, had another daughter, Jodeane, born a couple years later.
‘What I had to do’
Lanphere, who is now 95, often wonders what would have ever happened in his life if he didn’t enlist.
He also wonders what would have ever happened if World War II had a different ending.
In August 1945, Lanphere was living in Sterling, with his wife and daughter, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“I’ve heard from a number of people over the years saying the U.S. should have not dropped those bombs,” he said. “But, I believe if we would have not done that, we would have lost a bunch of serviceman in Japan. They were a bunch of real fanatics.”
Lanphere said he does not consider himself a hero.
“Am I a hero, no… I just did what I had to do,” he said. “And the rest of my crew did the same thing. It was our job to save our country.”
A good life
Lanphere worked as an air traffic controller in Chicago for a number of years after he retired from the military.
After Geneva passed away, Lanphere would find love twice more.
He and his second wife, Kay, were married for about 20 years before she succumbed to breast cancer.
He later met Gladys Lampe of Highland. They were married in 2001. She died in June after battling pneumonia, he said.
“My days with Gladys were some of the happiest times of my life,” he said. “We shared a lot of things in common. We both loved to travel.”
Looking back at his life, Lanphere said he does not have any regrets. He said he has lived a good life.
He said he also enjoyed his time in the military. He said seeing the U.S. flag today means everything in the world to him.
“I’m proud of it,” he said and started to cry.
Lanphere is also proud to have served.
“…And I’d be happy to serve our country again, if I could,” he said and smiled.
By Mark Hodapp
Perhaps one of the rarest
feats has been accomplished by
only a handful of pitchers in
Major League Baseball. Former
Waterloo, Ill. native, the late Willis
Koenigsmark, was one of them.
Their ERAs are INF, also
known as “infinity.”
Koenigsmark is one of 13
big league pitchers who each
appeared in only one Major
League game in his career, gave
up at least one run but never
recorded an out, according to
David Smith at Project Retrosheet.
Surely it must have been
frustrating for Koenigsmark to
have earned a big league cup of
coffee, but never to have
achieved what every pitcher desires
most — an out.
On Sept. 10, 1919, St. Louis
Cardinals manager Branch
Rickey brought in right-hander
Koenigsmark to pitch against
the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Koenigsmark faced only
three Dodgers batters without
recording an out in his first and
only big league game.
Two of the batters scored,
giving Koenigsmark the dreaded
Koenigsmark never pitched
in another big league game after
He later made his living selling
seed corn in Waterloo, Ill., recalled
his niece Jean Stogner,
who still lives in Waterloo.
A World War I veteran, Koenigsmark
died July 1, 1972.
He was buried at Waterloo
Local baseball historian Rich
Fisher recalled meeting Koenigsmark
a couple weeks after
Fisher was discharged from the
service in 1967. He remembers
Koenigsmark asking him if
he’d be interested in starting
another baseball team in Waterloo
to compete in the Mon-Clair
“He didn’t care how good or
bad of a team it was,” Fisher
said. “He just wanted to have
another team to compete against
another guy in town.”
That other guy was Waterloo
Millers manager Vern Moehrs.
Fisher told Koenigsmark
he’d need a couple of days to
think about it.
But he said he never heard
from Koenigsmark again.
The Koenigsmark family has
a deep heritage and legacy in
Willis was the grandson of
Thomas Koenigsmark, who
died Jan. 14, 1911, in Waterloo.
Thomas Koenigsmark for more
than a quarter of a century devoted
his energies to advancing
the interests of Waterloo.
A self-made man, Thomas
Koenigsmark came to the United
States as a poor immigrant
boy, without money or friends.
In time, he became a power
in the commercial world and
the organizer and promoter of
vast industries which made Waterloo
an important milling center.
Thomas Koenigsmark was
born at Merklin, Bohemia, and
as a youth heard of the wonderful
fortunes to be made in the
When he was 13 years old,
he succeeded in accumulating
enough money to pay his passage
to New Orleans.
Thomas Koenigsmark made
the journey alone and arrived in
that city when it was in the grip
of a yellow fever epidemic.
“My mother (Alyda Koenigsmark)
said he came to the
United States with 50 cents in
his pocket and a violin,” Stogner
In 1855, Thomas Koenigsmark
moved to St. Louis, but
subsequently settled at Columbia,Ill.,
where he was first employed
as a clerk in Beaird’s
Later, Thomas Koenigsmark
followed the trade of tailor for a
short time, and worked in the
brick business for another short
period, owning a yard where the
Columbia, Ill. depot once stood prior
to the building of the Mobile
and Ohio Railroad.
In 1863, Thomas Koenigsmark
entered the mercantile
field as the proprietor of a store,
and successfully conducted it
until he purchased Gardner Mill
in Columbia. When the Chouteau
and Edwards Mill, in Waterloo,
was completely destroyed
by fire in 1884, the citizens
of this city asked him to
build a new mill, and this he did
in 1886, erecting the Koenigsmark
Thomas Koenigsmark was
progressive in all things, and
was a firm believer in using the
most modern machinery and
During the 36 years that he
was engaged in milling, he saw
many changes in milling methods,
and was ever abreast of the
While Thomas Koenigsmark’s
business career kept his
time well occupied, he found
leisure to enjoy those pleasures
that made his home life beautiful.
He was a great lover of music, the violin being his favorite
instrument, and in his younger
days showed considerable talent
as a performer.
Successful himself, Thomas
Koenigsmark enjoyed the success
of others, and was ever
ready to lend a helping hand to
those in need of assistance.
Thomas Koenigsmark retired
in 1899 and moved to St.
Louis, where he later died.
When Thomas Koenigsmark
retired, he signed over the mills
to his sons, John and Jacob
Willis was the youngest of
Jacob and Dorothea Koenigsmark’s
eight children. The other
children were Minnie, Alyda,
Amanda, Alois Conrad, Morris
John Koenigsmark was the
grandfather of Virginia Sweet,
who still lives in Waterloo.
It’s not known how Willis
got his start in baseball.
“But I have been told he was
the athlete in his family,” Stogner
It’s also not known what
happened to Thomas Koenigsmark’s
violin after it was sold in
a family auction in 1989.
But Stogner was able to find
and acquire the violin’s case
several years ago.