Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 3:02 pm
Column by Paul Fugleberg
the many thousands of war heroes honored during Veterans Day, Nov. 11,
was the late Harry Lee Shryock of Polson. He served in the Army Air
Corps during World War II and then in the US Air Force in the Korean and
A native of Elyria, Ohio, Shryock enlisted in
the air corps, received flight training at Barksdale Field where he
earned his wings and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in February
1942 and was assigned to the 44th heavy bombardment group. In July he
was sent to North Africa and saw action right away.
a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot, he and his crew pounded Rommel’s forces
from Egypt to Tunisia over the next eight months. His plane was called
“Stinger” and survived 35 dangerous bombing missions. Although his plane
was riddled with machine gun bullets and anti-aircraft flak, neither
Shryock nor his crew were wounded.
He received the Distinguished
Flying Cross, was promoted to captain and at the end of eight months,
returned to the U.S. and was assigned as assistant operations officer to
the bomb group.
He remained in the Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel and he and his wife Deola settled in Polson.
didn’t hang up his wings, though. He occasionally flew charter flights
for Phil Timm from the Polson airport. One of those flights included me
and my daughter Ruth, who was trying out for a Boise State University
women’s basketball scholarship. Also flying with us was a Bigfork high
school girls’ basketball team member who came along for moral support
The weather was poor enough that commercial airlines
between Missoula and Boise weren’t flying that day. The Boise tryouts
were set for 2 p.m. But small planes were permitted to fly. Phil asked
Lee if he wanted to take trip and he agreed. So, off we went in Timm’s
Initial plan was to cross the mountains near Stanley,
Idaho, and go direct to Boise. But weather obscured the pass. Lee
decided to head to Mountain Home and then to Boise. That route was
weathered in too. Looked like we’d have to back track. As we got back
near Stanley again, the weather had lifted and we could go straight to
Ruth got there just as tryouts were starting. And she was
successful and received a tuition scholarship. Bad weather prevented
flying the Boise-Stanley-Polson route for the return trip. It was
flyable from Boise to Dillon. When we reached Dillon, weather was too
stormy in the Missoula-Polson area. So we landed at Dillon, got a couple
motel rooms for the night, and flew home the next day in bright
During the challenging trip, Lee told me, “I’ve flown a
lot of planes, some pretty big ones, but in a small plane, I really
feel like I’m flying. It’s the best!”
A few years later, Lee
again showed that his wartime courage was still unbroken. In January
1984, 27-year old David Cameron Keith robbed a Missoula pharmacy at
gunpoint and got away with some 500 prescription drugs including
Dilaudid, a synthetic heroin. The robber drove north on US 93 to the
Post Creek store where he stopped, dashed into the store and grabbed a
13-year-old boy as a hostage, and took him in the family’s pickup truck
after firing a shot at the boy’s father, and fled north until being
stopped at a roadblock near the top of Polson hill.
With gun pointed at the hostage’s head, Keith demanded an airplane and pilot.
volunteered to be the pilot. In his patrol car, Sheriff Glenn Frame led
Keith and the hostage to the airport where Shryock was at the controls
of a Beechcraft Bonanza single engine plane. The hostage was released
and Keith got into plane.
After attempts were made to start the
airplane’s engine, Keith shot and killed the pilot and deputies shot and
wounded the robber.
Following a trial the killer was sentenced to die by lethal injection on Jan. 20, 1989.
on Jan. 2, 1989, outgoing Governor Ted Schwinden granted clemency to
Keith, and accepted the Board of Pardons recommendation to commute the
sentence to life in prison without parole. The governor said his
decision was based on his review of Keith’s life, a meeting with Keith
at the prison, and a phone conversation with the family of Harry Lee
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