There is no monument in the Sonoma Valley to Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold, the double-five-star general who fathered the U.S. Air Force and began an all-too-brief retirement on a small ranch hard up against the side of Sonoma Mountain.
You can find a bronze, life-sized statue of Gen. Arnold with a globe of the world at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The road running up the Valley carries his name, but there is no statue, no sculpted stone, no edifice of any kind in the last place he called home, commemorating the man whose passion, singular vision and rogue nature drove the American military establishment to build the world’s largest and most powerful air arm.
Or there wasn’t. On Wednesday, at Hanna Boys Center, that all changed.
A gathering of local dignitaries, active and retired military service members, retired NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart, and at least three pilots (flying in formation overhead) paid tribute to the man who created the Air Force after training with the Wright Brothers in 1911.
Wednesday was Hap Arnold’s 128th birthday, and the occasion was the dedication of the now-officially-named Hap Arnold Roundabout, plus the unveiling of a large bronze plaque to be placed in a quiet spot at El Rancho Feliz, the 40-acre retirement spot Hap and his wife, Bee, once owned, adjacent to the Hanna campus.