Offutt family returns for 100th anniversary

Lt. Jarvis Offutt

In 1918, Offutt was the first Omaha-native pilot to die during World War I. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Josh Plueger)


The great nephew of Lt. Jarvis Offutt, along with several members of his family, are set to attend the 2018 Defenders of Freedom Air and Space Show Aug. 12, as well as a special memorial ceremony at Offutt’s grave in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Aug. 13, honoring the 100th anniversary of his passing.

Dave Offutt, who now resides in Washington, moved to the West Coast with his family when he was in elementary school. The last time he visited the base was to have a meal in the officer’s club in the late 1970s – a memory which he said is vague.

“I remember at that time it was the headquarters of Strategic Air Command and we were going through the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it didn’t mean that much to me,” Offutt said. “We left when I was 9, in third grade. I really hated to move away because I really loved Omaha - my family had been there for a long time.”

In 1918, Offutt was the first Omaha-native pilot to die during World War I.

He was serving in the Royal Air Force’s 56 Squadron, a unit which continues to have strong ties to the base today. In fact, Master Aircrew Keith “Nutty” Wing, a RAF Rivet Joint specialist, along with members of the 55th Wing Plans, Program and Requirements, were the ones to discover Lt. Offutt’s grave was in dire need of restoration and took action to restore it.

“Lt. Offutt was a member of my squadron on the day he died,” Wing said. “We have a saying on 56 Squadron - the emblem of 56 Squadron is the phoenix, so they are known as the Firebirds - and once a Firebird always a Firebird.”

It was that same compassion that spurred an invitation to Dave and his family who were grateful to be asked.

“I think it is amazing that anyone has remembered Jarvis Offutt,” he said.  “Let’s face it, over time memories fade and you tend to forget about the importance of past events. What hit home for me is when I realized that Jarvis was 23 when he was killed, and that is the age of our youngest son who is a flyer. Jarvis was someone who lost his life in a fairly tragic way, but he was one of millions.”

During the air and space show, the family will be honored with a flag folding ceremony and presentation by the Air Force and RAF honor guards. Additionally, the 55th Wing Association will host a historical booth dedicated to Lt. Offutt.  

The following day leadership from the 55th WG and RAF will accompany the family to Lt. Offutt’s grave for a wreath laying ceremony by both countries.