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Exhibit Features El Toro Life, World War II Vets

Sept. 14, 2012


These pilot helmets are among the artifcats on exhibit.

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History, as told by those who lived it and displayed via their decades-old uniforms, photographs and other World War II-era artifacts, is being featured in “Farmers to Flyers: Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and Mid-Century Orange County.” The free exhibition, produced by Cal State Fullerton students and alumni, in partnership with the Orange County Great Park, is on display through March 31 at the Orange County Great Park. The public is invited to a special opening reception Saturday, Sept. 22.


Opening reception — 7-9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22
Attendees will include some of the members of the "greatest generation" whose oral histories are featured.

Exhibit — noon-4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 31.


Orange County Great Park, (OCGP) Palm Court Arts Complex
Entrance at the intersection of Sand Canyon Avenue and Marine Way on the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station


CSUF alumna Michelle Antenesse (M.A. history ’11), human resources specialist at Fluor Corp.

“The reopening of ‘Farmers to Flyers’ is a wonderful opportunity for us to share the story of Orange County’s post WWII transition with a large audience,” Antenesse said. “The exhibit embraces familiar themes like the military build-up in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, and the post-war boom and suburbanization. The entire nation went through these changes and Orange County was no different. The artifacts and oral histories featured in ‘Farmers to Flyers’ do the important job of telling that story. The oral histories, in particular, give visitors the opportunity to hear about this transformation from those who witnessed it first hand.”


Exhibit visitors will be able to listen to excerpts of oral histories, produced by Cal State Fullerton student researchers and historians. Among the veterans’ oral histories are those of:

  • John “Jack” Dailey, a retired four-star general and current director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. During his 36 years in the Marine Corps, Dailey trained to fly a variety of aircraft and helicopters and flew more than 450 missions in Vietnam.
  • Lt. Gen. Frank Petersen, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1950 and accepted a Marine Corps commission in 1952, when he became the first African-American Marine Corps aviator.
  • Col. Harvey Jensen, a World War II and Korean War veteran who joined the Naval V-5 Program in 1942 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He was stationed at MCAS El Toro multiple times from 1944 until his retirement in 1974.

Among the oral histories of women in uniform are those of:

  • Cpl. Faye Shumway, who was inspired by the “Free a man to fight” campaign to join the Marine Corps Women’s Reserves in 1944. Stationed at MCAS El Toro from 1945 to ’46, Shumway worked in the machine shop, where she met her first husband, also a Marine.
  • Pfc. Maxine Wehry, who enlisted in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943 with hopes of becoming an aviation mechanic. Instead, she became one of the first beauticians on the El Toro base and helped open the beauty shop in 1944. She was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1945 but continued working on the base as a civilian until 1946.
  • Pvt. Rosemary Murray (1924-2011), who was accepted into the Marine Corps Women’s Reserves in 1944 and after boot camp, was sent to aircraft mechanics school. Murray met Jack, her husband of 48 years, while they were both stationed in Norman, Okla., and they married a year later at MCAS El Toro.

Oral histories of other base pioneers include:

  • Maj. Edward Carmichael, who joined the Navy in 1941 and graduated from Advanced Flight Training in North Island in 1942. He landed the first aircraft at MCAS El Toro.
  • Master Sgt. David Gaylord , who falsified the year of his birth to join the Marine Corps during World War II when he was 16.
  • Col. Marshall Austin (1924-2010), who joined the Navy V-5 program in 1942 and was commissioned a Marine Corps lieutenant later that year. A two-war veteran, Austin flew combat missions in World War II and Korea. He was stationed at MCAS El Toro multiple times between 1947 and 1967.
  • Sgt. Maj. Royden Brunet, who joined the Marine Corps in 1942 and spent a short time at El Toro preparing to go overseas with his squadron, VMSB-133. He deployed to the South Pacific in 1943 and over the next two years flew off Bougainville, Rabaul and the Philippines. After the war, Brunet returned to Fond de Lac, Wis., to raise his family and served 30 years in the Army Reserve.
  • Col. Roger Sanders (1921-2012), who, in 1942, was accepted into the Navy V-5 Program and later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. A veteran of World War II and Korea, Sanders flew a variety of military aircraft and participated in numerous attack missions over enemy territory.
  • Col. Johnnie Vance (1921-2009), who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 in the NAVCAD Program. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was an aviator who served in World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars.
  • Lt. Col. Robert Van Dalsem, who joined the Navy V-5 Program in 1942 and spent nearly 30 years in the Marine Corps as an aviator.
  • Patricia Herber, whose father was a Marine Corps aircraft mechanic and was stationed at MCAS El Toro when she was in the eighth and ninth grades. 
  • Master Tech. Sgt. Ray Hickey, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942 and spent Thanksgiving on Guadalcanal. 
  • Capt. Clarence Nelson, who joined the Marine Corps in 1941 and spent a year in the South Pacific before being sent to MCAS El Toro, where he worked in Air Base Group-2.
  • Maj. Arthur Rawlings, who enrolled in the Navy V-5 Program at the beginning of World War II and was commissioned into the Marine Corps. Rawlings served in World War II and the Korean War as an aviator.


The “Farmers to Flyers” exhibit was first displayed in 2009 at the Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum at the Fullerton Arboretum. The exhibit is the result of the history department’s public history program. It emerged from the ongoing El Toro Marine Corps Air Station Oral History Project, carried out by Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Oral and Public History and funded by the Orange County Great Park Corp.

CSUF history professors, alumni and students so far have conducted more than 400 oral histories of veterans, family members and community members who were stationed at, worked on or lived near the El Toro base. A team of mostly history majors worked on the original exhibit and the new one at the Great Park. The team grew out of a class, “Introduction to Public History,” taught by Benjamin Cawthra, associate professor of history.

“The class introduces undergraduate history majors and graduate students to a wide range of thinking on how public history is performed in museums, historic sites, online, and in historic preservation,” Cawthra said.

“ ‘Farmers to Flyers’ tells a very important story about mid-century Orange County,” said Natalie M. Fousekis, associate professor of history and director of CSUF’s Center for Oral and Public History. “While the exhibit and the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station Oral History Project tell the stories of the men and women who lived and worked on the base in these early years, they also are part of a larger history of the region itself — not just the base, but the land and the people surrounding it. The interviews featured in this exhibit will help scholars and citizens recover the history of Orange County, its people and the dramatic changes that occurred in the later half of the 20th century.”

The center is seeking to interview more veterans, their families and people who worked at or lived near El Toro. To be a part of the ongoing project, call 657-278-8415 or send an e-mail to

More Information:

Visit or call 866-829-3829 for details on the “Farmers to Flyers” Exhibition at the Orange County Great Park.

Media Contacts:

Mimi Ko Cruz, CSUF Media Relations, 657-278-7586
Marcus Ginnaty, OC Great Park, 949-724-6574

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