NW Military Band's History Comes To End As Air Force Shifts Focus
By Jessica Robinson
A military band that entertained Northwest troops heading off to the Korean War and played the dedication of Grand Coulee Dam will close their music books for good this weekend. The military is deactivating the 560th Air Force Band, based out of Spokane.
The 560th made its last public appearance at a wind-swept ferry christening ceremony on the Columbia River last month.
For 65 years, the Air Force National Guard performers supplied the musical backdrop for dedications, parades, fairs and funerals across a five-state territory. The band played for President Harry S Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. In the 1950s, while at then-McChord Air Force Base, the musicians of the 560th had their own weekly variety show on KING-TV.
Tech Sgt. Wes Walton is the historian for the Air National Guard refueling wing at Fairchild Airforce base.
Wes Walton: “They really had a much broader influence than any other military unit, really, that we have to affect people. In a real sense.”
But the drawdown of troops overseas and military belt-tightening led the Air Force to cut back on so-called “soft power” budget items, like the bands program. By the end of September, it will deactivate three active duty bands and six air national guard bands, including the Band of the Northwest.
The band's recordings and memorabilia will be boxed up and sent to the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio – where the box will stay, in case the Band of the Northwest is ever called back into action.
Photo: The Band of the Northwest had a variety program from 1951-52 on KING-TV. Photo courtesy of the Washington Air Guard.
Band of the Northwest: http://www.bandofthenorthwest.ang.af.mil/