Ashland to remember WWII Doolittle Raid with "George Barr Day"
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Next Monday, the City of Ashland will mark 80 years since the Doolittle Raid on Japan during WWII by telling how it forever changed one man’s life.
It will be "George Barr Day" in Ashland. There is a free event at 1 p.m. Monday, April 18, at the Chequamegon Veterans Center.
When WWII began, Barr was a student at Northland College there.
"He was an outstanding campus leader, a great friend to many, and one of the finest basketball players we had in Northland’s history," Jackie Moore, director of alumni relations at Northland College, said.
One semester shy of graduation, Barr enlisted in the Air Corps.
"None of them knew what the mission was at the time. He just volunteered for a mission," VFW Post 690 Commander Jason Janecek said.
His mission was the Doolittle Raid, a post-Pearl Harbor air raid on Tokyo and other parts of Japan.
"He was in the 16th plane that took off, and he was one of the eight that was captured by the Japanese," Janecek said. "They had to bail out over Japanese-occupied China."
According to Janecek, Barr was held as a prisoner of war, mostly in solitary confinement, for more than three years. He was released in August 1945.
When he finally returned to the United States, he had to recover both physically and mentally.
"It’s my understanding that they toured him around to familiar places, and that’s part of how he came back to Ashland," Moore said.
He returned to Northland College to return to himself.
"He was able to remember who he was and that this was his home," Moore said. "And I think that that’s a testament to the Northland spirit, to the Northland community, and to the Ashland community and how we take care of each other."
Soon, he’ll always be there. The VFW commissioned a portrait, which will hang in the WWII memorial corner of Wheeler Hall on Northland’s campus.
"Hero is a term that is used rather loosely today," Janecek said. "But George Barr definitely meets that definition."