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Twentieth Air Force dedicates headquarters building

  • Published
  • Twentieth Air Force Public Affairs

Members of the Twentieth Air Force came together to dedicate their headquarters building during a ceremony on F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, April 4, 2024.

The building was renamed Erwin Hall in honor of Henry “Red” Erwin, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1945 after he was severely injured during a bombing run over Japan in January 1945. His son, prior Alabama state senator Henry Erwin Jr., attended the event presided over by Maj. Gen. Stacy Huser, Twentieth Air Force commander.

Erwin Jr., who toured base facilities earlier in the day, participated in the ceremony and was overwhelmed by the gesture of renaming the building in honor of his father.

“It brings a tear to my eye to see this honor given to my father,” said Erwin Jr. “He loved his crew, his commanding officers, and the Twentieth Air Force. May everyone who sees his name on this building be inspired to excellence, honor and service to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

The process for renaming an Air Force facility can be a long and arduous process and depending on the size of the building and the person being recognized, can make a request effort take months or even years. A background check must be undertaken for any individual being so honored, and the request routed through multiple offices before being signed off on by the ultimate approving official – which can change, again depending on the size of the building and background of the individual.

Due to Erwin’s heroic acts and being a recipient of a Medal of Honor, the process was somewhat shorter than is typical, but approval still fell on Air Force Global Strike’s commander, Gen. Thomas Bussiere. Yet, it was a goal that Twentieth Air Force wanted to accomplish.

“We had initially discussed the prospect of creating a memorial inside the headquarters building when we learned of Master Sgt. Erwin’s ties to Twentieth Air Force,” said Jeremy Prichard, Twentieth Air Force historian. “But as we began considering ways to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Twentieth Air Force’s activation, it morphed into a more symbolic gesture where we wanted to pay respects to the only known Medal of Honor recipient from the Twentieth, and when someone proposed re-dedicating the building in Erwin’s honor, the support was overwhelming.”

In addition to his name being prominently placed on the brick marquee outside of the building, a stanchion detailing Erwin’s heroic acts was placed off the walkway to the headquarters.

“Renaming and rededicating buildings shouldn’t be taken lightly,” said Jeremy Prichard, Twentieth Air Force historian. “It’s a laborious process that should only be reserved for unique exceptions, and that’s how we came to the decision to rededicate building 65 as Erwin Hall. Erwin’s wartime legacy demonstrates values that remain relevant for today’s Airmen, and honoring his legacy as such provides a reminder of what Airmen are yet capable of.”

Due to the difficulty in renaming buildings, those honored with these types of dedications have typically been recognized for acts of heroism or exceptional leadership.

On April 12, 1945, Staff Sgt. Henry “Red” Erwin” was serving as the radio operator aboard the B-29 Superfortress “City of Los Angeles” when a smoke marker exploded and shot back inside the aircraft. Erwin instinctively picked up the burning phosphorous marker as smoke filled the forward section of the B-29, burning him and blinding him as he did so. He managed to successfully throw the marker from the aircraft, despite his injuries, saving the lives of his fellow crew members. One week later, he received the Medal of Honor while recovering in a field hospital in Guam.

During the ceremony, Huser stated why it was so important to recognize Erwin for his selflessness, his sacrifice and his embodiment of Air Force core values – all which carried on past his military service when he served as a counselor for burn victims and a benefits advisor for nearly 40 years.

“Sergeant Erwin’s unwavering dedication to service, people, Twentieth Air Force, and this nation, should be recognized daily, especially within this command,” said Huser. “For these reasons, building 65, the headquarters for Twentieth Air Force, will now be known as Erwin Hall, commemorating a man whose life was the embodiment of our values. I could not be more honored and humbled to be a part of this ceremony and share it with Senator Erwin.”