SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Who knew there was once a military plane named the Spirit of Sylacauga?

In an October 21, 1943, newspaper photo, Mrs. Melvin Isbell had just christened the new bomber at the Bechtel, McCone & Parsons Airplane Modification Center in Birmingham. Her son Robert, an apprentice seaman in the U.S. Navy, died in a shipwreck in 1942, just 10 days after his 20th birthday – the first World War II casualty from Sylacauga and from Talladega County.

Mrs. Isbell was Talladega County’s first World War II Gold Star Mother. Established in 1928, AGSM is a non-profit organization of mothers who lost sons or daughters in U.S. military service.

Bethel-McCone modified B-24 Liberators, B-29 Super Fortresses, P-38 Lightnings, and A-20 Havocs. Its first modified airplane was a huge 4-engine B-24 heavy bomber, christened Vulcan of Birmingham, on March 18, 1943.

Do you have an interesting photo from the Sylacauga area’s past? Email it to

Lee Perryman for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.