Barksdale airman uncovers piece of WWII history at local thrift store

Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 10:38 AM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - “To see that history preserved gives me great joy and satisfaction, to pass it on to the next generation so we don’t forget what they did,” said Capt. Russell Risden.

Capt. Risden serves in the United States Air Force, and has always had a reverence for the history and legacy of the men and women who have served before him.

“Growing up, I had WWII veterans as mentors and role models. They inspired me to continue the legacy by serving and preserve the legacy whenever I have the opportunity,” he said.

And an opportunity arose unexpectedly one day at a local thrift store, when he stumbled across a piece of World War II history.

“So three years ago, I arrived on Barksdale and was just wandering around the local Shreveport area when I stumbled upon this WWII flight jacket. It was named, had a little name tag on it, and it went to a Jim Swann,” said Capt. Risden.

Because of the nature of his job, Capt. Risden deployed a few times, and then the COVID-19 pandemic put life on pause, so it was a while before he had the opportunity to do some more research and learn about Swann. When he had a moment, Capt. Risden started researching Swann, and utilized the knowledge and resources of Barksdale Global Power Museum Historian Lane Calloway.

Come to find out, Lt. Swann was a bombardier on the B-17 and flew 30 missions over Germany as part of the 8th Air Force. And now, the 8th Air Force calls Barksdale Air Force Base home.

“He was born in Shreveport and died in Shreveport. As a matter of fact, he was born and died in the same house on Kings Highway. A true Shreveport veteran and 8th Air Force veteran as well. Between the Shreveport connection and the 8th Air Force connection, it was perfect that he be memorialized at this museum because the 8th Air Force is now headquartered on this base,” said Calloway.

Capt. Risden and Calloway were able to contact Lt. Swann’s family, who in turn donated more pieces in order to create a display that memorialized Swann’s contributions.

When KSLA asked Capt. Risden what it meant to him to find this jacket and discover this connection, he responded: “It’s a sense of community. That I’m not the first one to show up here on base. This base has been around since 1932, officially dedicated in ‘33, but it has a wonderful history. Jimmy Stewart, General Chenault all lived on this base at some point and what these men did deserves to be remembered and not forgotten.”

You can visit the display yourself at Barksdale Global Power Museum Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.