Viets Air Force uniform comes home to Colfax History Room

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — The United States Air Force uniform worn by Colfax native Hollis Viets has come home.

Hollis Viets died in May of 1998 at the age of 78, and his wife, Vergene, decided recently to donate his uniform to the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group’s Colfax History Room.

Hollis Viets grew up right behind the Colfax Farmers’ Store, so his Air Force uniform has taken its place of honor only a block away at the municipal building.

Susan Hill, coordinator of the Colfax History Room located on the auditorium level of the Colfax Municipal Building, said she was glad to receive the donation of Hollis’s uniform.

“I bought one Air Force uniform so we could have it in the collection, but this is so much better because it belonged to someone local,” she said.

Hill displayed the Viets’ uniform for the first time during the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group’s open house April 27.

Hollis Viets joined the Air Force in January of 1941 and retired March 17, 1964.

The uniform that Hollis is wearing in the photograph is not, however, the blue uniform that Vergene Viets donated to the history room.

“This is the Army Air Corps — the Army Air Force — uniform (in the photo). It’s O.D. (olive drab). Later on, it became the United States Air Force, and then they went to blue uniforms,” Vergene Viets said.

“I’m not sure when the uniforms changed, but I think it was something like nine years after Hollie went into the service,” she said.

According to information available on the Internet, the United States Air Force became a separate military service on September 18, 1947, when the National Security Act of 1947 was implemented.

From 1918 to 1926, the air forces were officially known as the Air Service, U.S. Army.

From 1926 to June of 1941, the air forces were known as the U.S. Army Air Corps.

From 1941 to 1947, the service was known as the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Over the years, Hollie — as he was known by friends and family — served in many different locations in addition to his service in World War II.

“He started out in Seymour, Indiana. Then we went up to New Jersey, and then we went down to Illinois. Then we went down to New Mexico. We stayed there nine years. Then we went to New Hampshire and stayed there for two or three years. Then we were in France for three years. Then we came back here and were in Virginia for about two years,” she said.

Hollis and Vergene moved back to the Colfax area in 1967.

“We lived out east after he got out of the Air Force. But then my mother passed away and left us this place (in the Town of Otter Creek), so we came back. It’s been a blessing. We have loved it here,” Vergene said.

Hollis was born in Colfax to Ralph and Emma (Kulbeck) Viets on January 12, 1920. He married Vergene Erickson June 9, 1945.

Hollis and Vergene owned and operated the Colfax Laundromat and a tree farm.

Hollis also worked in the post office in Colfax and was a carpenter. He was a member of the Norton Lutheran Church; Russell-Toycen American Legion Post No. 131; the Masonic Lodge and Lutheran Brotherhood.

Vergene and Hollis have three sons: Mike, Terry and Byron.

Hollis Viets is buried in the cemetery at Norton Lutheran Church west of Colfax.