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Honoring veterans

The Ironton Tribune - 5/6/2024

May 6—William C. Lambert Military Museum & Archive seeks to remember those who served

In the lobby of the Ironton City Center is a small museum dedicated to one of the city's most famous war heroes, Col. Bill Lambert, called the William C. Lambert Military Museum & Archive.

In 1917, Lambert was among the Americans who joined the British Royal Air Force so he could fly in World War I. In 1918, he is credited with downing 18 or 22 enemy planes, depending on the source.

Lambert would receive a Distinguished Flying Cross awarded to Royal Air Force pilots who showed acts of valor while engaging the enemy. He is believed to be the second-ranked Ace pilot of the war, only eight victories behind fellow Ohioan pilot Eddie Rickenbacker.

He continued to fly and served in World War II. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

After his retirement, he returned to Ironton and became an author and designed things that he later patented, mostly famously, at least locally, a device that sat on his chin so he could smoke his pipe hands free.

Besides being an actual war hero, he was a hero to many kids that loved to hear his tales.

One of those kids was Brent Pyles, one of the founders and current president of the Lambert museum.

"When I was a kid in the 1950s and early 1960s, Col. Lambert was an elderly fellow. We had always heard about him. He lived just a few blocks away from me,"

Pyles said. Kids would ride their bikes over to Lambert's house at 10th and Vine streets. He said that while many people Lambert's age would shoo the kids away, Lambert didn't.

"He was always willing to tell you a story or answer your questions," he said. "We really liked kids and kids liked him. He recognized him as a military guy and someone that flew airplanes. It was fascinating. He was a living history book for us when we were kids."

Part of the fascination was that Lambert was always smoking his pipe and "some way or another, he always had a hole burned into his sweater. And he invented the Dry-EZ, which was a pipe rest that the pipe could set on your chin, so it didn't damage your teeth or make your jaw sore."

Now, the Lambert Museum has an original display card of the Dry-EZ, which promised "No saliva in the bowl" that also acted as a rest for the pipe when it wasn't being smoked.

The museum was organized as a 501 3 (c) non-profit in December 2018, with a goal of not only honoring Lambert, but many of the Lawrence Countians who have served in the military.

Pyles said it was the brainchild of a few

Ironton residents, including Bill Dickens and Joe Unger. He said he was brought in to give it a business structure.

"We set a goal of being an organization in Lawrence County, and Ironton in particular, to recognize the exploits of our veterans and our service men and women and to be an archive for military memorabilia to tell the story to future generations about what some of these people went through to where we are today," Pyles said.

He said many people are finding trunks in basements and attics that contain not junk, but things that their parents or grandparents kept from the war. That has included captured enemy flags and more.

"It meant something to them, that's why they kept it," Pyles said.

He said the goal is to display history in an appropriate way and that Lambert was the entry point for the museum to get started.

"He doesn't really have any direct descendants left, it was kind of the end of the line for Lambert. We didn't have any family to talk to, so we talked to his friends and associates," Pyles said.

One of those friends was Bill Martin, who helped start the Highlands Museum and helped the Lambert museum get organized.

"Bill had a lot of things that he and the colonel had done and talked about. He had the colonel's patent for a mono wing aircraft. It is a really nice patent sample that the colonel had put together for the federal government when he applied for the patent," Pyles said.

They also aligned themselves with Sam Wilson, a professor at Rio Grande University and Lambert's friend.

"He wrote several books about the colonel, so he knew a lot of the stories the colonel used to tell and he knew the stories to be true because he had researched it," Pyles said. "He said the colonel liked to embellish his stories, like we all do, but the central core of the story was truthful."

Wilson also had a lot of things Lambert had made or traded for during the war and donated or loaned them to the museum.

They eventually hope to find a physical space in Ironton to display some of Lambert's and other military veterans' memorabilia.

"That will cost a lot of money for its upkeep and we are fledgling, volunteer organization, we don't have a lot of money," Pyles said. "We don't have a direct source of income besides donations."

He said Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit II has been gracious to use part of the City Center lobby.

"He wanted to see a very tasteful, inviting display and that's what we have done," Pyles said. "He is very proud of it. We have been very fortunate to find a home in the City Center."

Pyles said he is proud of what they have been able to do with the William C. Lambert Military Museum and Archive.

"It is very tastefully done," he said. "We are all about our veterans and recognizing those from Lawrence County and our area that have served the nation."

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