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Honoring an Airman's Legacy: rise of the Dugan Field name

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Lawrence W. Dugan takes a batting stance at Garden City, Kansas, 1945. Dugan was stationed at the Garden City Army Airfield, Kansas, where he met his wife, Darlene Hayden Dugan. (Courtesy photo of Diane “Dede” Elsen)

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An article displaying the day the Dugan family went to the memorial service of the late Lawrence W. Dugan, June 11, 1962, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. This was the day that the Minor League Baseball field got its new name “Dugan Field”. (Courtesy photo of Diane “Dede” Elsen)

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Vi Carpenter (far left), Este Park bookkeeper, and Larry Carpenter (left), Aviation archeologist, along with Dede Elsen (right), Holiday Tour & Travel Travel Manager, and Rodger Elsen (far right), Tyson Cattle Buyer, visit the crash site September 2000 at Arapahoe Pass, Colorado. With the help of Larry and Vi Carpenter Dede was able to find the location of the crash site. (Courtesy photo of Diane “Dede” Elsen)

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The plaque of Lawrence W. Dugan rests on a stone, Mar. 12, 2020, at Dugan Field on Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The plaque was made to honor Dugan for his active participation in youth activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Akeem K. Campbell)

Mountain Home Air Force Base,ID --

When residents of MHAFB come across Dugan Field Park, not much is known about how the park got its name. In fact, the name was almost considered to be renamed. However, Chrissie Parker, 366th Fighter Wing historian, had received an information request from U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Allyson Strickland, 366th Force Support Squadron commander, to learn more about how the park received its name.

“After researching the historical collection files for days, yet still coming up empty handed, I turned to folks in the Civil Engineering Squadron and the Air Combat Command historians, neither of whom had any documentation,” said Parker. “The answers I was looking for were in a different part of the 366th FW historical collection. I found articles in the on-base newspaper of the time, the Strata-Courier. This treasure trove of information explained who Dugan was and why the field was named after him."

After a thorough investigation, Parker was able to recover documents from old news outlets that contained information about the origin of the Dugan field name and who the person was.

According to the Strata Courier article of 1962, Dugan Field was named after the late MSgt. Lawrence W. Dugan, who was stationed at MHAFB, Idaho, in the late 1950’s. He was the baseball coach of both the Tigers and Pirates in the MHAFB minor league until his death on Oct. 22, 1960. The field was dedicated to him for being active in youth activities.

Dugan is currently survived by his daughter Diane “Dede” Dugan. Dede says that her father worked as a mechanic when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces. He later met his wife Darlene Hayden Dugan at a softball field in Garden City, Kansas, in 1946. They had two kids Diane “Dede” Dugan and Eugene Dugan. When they moved to MHAFB they coached the minor league baseball teams on base.

“My mom coached the girls and my dad helped her,” Dede said. “I think he had played softball throughout his life. He loved the game and kids. During his duty stationed on MHAFB, he was honored for spending his time with the youth.”

During his time in the Army Air Force, Dugan would often spend time with his family outdoors. Dede recalls the memorable times that she and her brother spent with him.

"We were very close. He took my brother and I camping, fishing and we played softball,” Dede said. “I recall fond memories in Mountain Home; we went to Red-Fish Lake, Snake River and Coeur D’Alene.”

Six months prior to his retirement, tragedy struck the Dugan family as they learned of the plane incident that took his life, and what it meant for them.

“You lose more than just one person,” Dede said. “You lose your home that you were in, your school, and your friends. We left the base three days after and it was devastating because we didn’t have any place to go.”

According to the Baltimore Sun article in 1960 two men had died from the plane crash in Nederland, Colorado, MSgt. Lawrence W. Dugan and Maj. Kenneth R. Brangwin. The aircraft was a single engine Beechcraft T-34 Mentor and it had left the morning before from Garden City, Kansas, to Mountain Home, Idaho.

“They were returning from Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma,” Parker said. “Dugan had been in service for 20 years and planned to retire in six months.”

Dede says that she had received an Air current report from the Air Force saying that the winds at high altitudes were so strong that it brought the plane down as they were trying to cross the mountain along the continental divide. The location of the crash was at  Arapahoe Pass, Colorado at approximately 12,000ft of elevation.

According to the Strata Courier Article of 1962, a memorial was held in honor of Dugan, June 11, 1962. The base commander at the time was Col. Charles A. Allard and he revealed to the surviving Dugan family that the Minor League baseball field will from now on be named “Dugan Field”.

“We were proud of the recognition that they gave him,” Dede said. “Sad but proud.”

In September of 2000, Dede, along with her husband and friends, were able to locate the crash site.

 “We found a bunch of pieces because there was no snow and we were able to see the entire wreckage,” Dede said. “It is such a closure for me to see where it happened. Otherwise your imagination just goes anywhere.”

To this day, Dede has kept the souvenirs of her father’s pastime playing baseball.

“I have a picture of him in uniform with a baseball bat and I got his old baseball mitt with one thumb and three fingers,” Dede said. “It’s nice to get somebody to remember someone from the past and know that they were real people not just a name on a plaque or park.”

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