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NW Military Band's History Comes to End as Air Force Shifts Focus

Photo courtesy of the Washington Air Guard.

A military band that entertained Northwest troops heading off to the Korean War and played the dedication of Grand Coulee Dam will close their music books for good this weekend.

The military is deactivating the Spokane-based 560th Air Force Band, which made its last public appearance at a wind-swept ferry christening ceremony on the Columbia River last month.

For 65 years, the Air Force National Guard performers supplied the musical backdrop for dedications, parades, fairs and funerals across a five-state territory.

The band played for President Harry S Truman and General Douglas MacArthur. In the 1950s, while at then-McChord Air Force Base, the musicians of the 560th had their own weekly variety show on KING-TV.

“They really had a much broader influence than any other military unit, really, that we have to affect people, in a real sense,” said Tech Sgt. Wes Walton, historian for the Air National Guard refueling wing at Fairchild Air Force Base.

But the drawdown of troops overseas and military belt-tightening led the Air Force to cut back on so-called “soft power” budget items, like the bands program. By the end of September, it will deactivate three active duty bands and six Air National Guard bands, including the Band of the Northwest.

The band's recordings and memorabilia will be boxed up and sent to the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio where the box will stay in case the Band of the Northwest is ever called back into action.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.