Tag Archive | aviation museum

Circus Trip 2018: National Museum of the Air Force

Day 34, Saturday, August 18, 2018

Dayton, Ohio

The National Museum of the Air Force is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio. It is the oldest and largest military in the world, and it has 360 aircraft and missiles on display. The museum was first created in 1923, with technical artifacts being collected for preservation. In 1954, the museum first opened to the public.

The museum has many rare aircraft and other memorabilia. They have the only surviving North American XB-70 Valkryie, as well as the Bockscar, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the bomb on Nagasaki in 1945.

They have a huge collection of planes with interesting and beautiful nose art, which I have long been fascinated with.

One of the artifacts that I love are the goblets and bottle of Cognac given by the City of Tucson, Arizona to the Doolittle’s Raiders. The brave men who participated in the raid each had a goblet with their name engraved on it. When each man died, their goblet is turned over in the case; some men’s goblets were always overturned, as they were killed after they crash landed in China and were captured by the Japanese. The intent was that the last living survivor of the raid was to open the bottle of Cognac and toast the other raiders.  The bottle was from 1896, the year their Commanding Officer, Doolittle, was born.

Several years ago, there were 4 remaining raiders and they decided they wanted to complete the toast before they were down to one; three of them were able to travel to the museum and participate. The museum live-streamed the ceremony and the toast and I had the opportunity to watch. It was powerful to see, and impacted me greatly.  The last Doolittle Raider, Retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole, died on April 9, 2018.  What a brave group of men they were!

The museum also had a special exhibit on the Holocaust; artifacts and information related to the concentration camps. The exhibit had information both on civilians and the airmen who were captured and held at the camps.  It was hard to walk through the exhibit and see the faces of those who died or whose lives were destroyed.

There are uplifting exhibits at the museum as well.  According to the Museum’s website, John Silver was a homing pigeon “used in World War I to deliver messages when other means such as telephones, telegraph, radio or dispatch riders were unavailable. They proved their value carrying messages from front line outposts to pigeon lofts at command centers, which they returned to by instinct and training.  John Silver was hatched in January 1918 in a dugout just behind the lines in France. During the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he was one of the most active pigeons in the Army, and his barrage-dodging skill was apparent in many exciting flights from the front line trenches to divisional pigeon lofts.

On Oct. 21, 1918, at 2:35 p.m., this pigeon was released at Grandpre from a front line dugout in the Meuse-Argonne drive with an important message for headquarters at Rampont, 25 miles away. The enemy had laid down a furious bombardment prior to an attack. Through this fire, the pigeon circled, gained his bearings and flew toward Rampont. Men in the trenches saw a shell explode near the pigeon. The concussion tossed him upward and then plunged him downward. Struggling, he regained his altitude and continued on his course. Arriving at Rampont 25 minutes later, the bird was a terrible sight. A bullet had ripped his breast, bits of shrapnel ripped his tiny body, and his right leg was missing. The message tube, intact, was hanging by the ligaments of the torn leg. Weeks of nursing restored his health but could not give back the leg he lost on the battlefield. The pigeon became a war hero and earned the name “John Silver,” after the one-legged pirate in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He was retired from active service and in 1921 was assigned as a mascot to the 11th Signal Company, U.S. Army Signal Corps, Schofield Barracks, Honolulu, Hawaii. John Silver died Dec. 6, 1935, at the age of 17 years and 11 months.”  He was a hero! You can read more about him here.

John Silver, the homing pigeon

Outside, they have monuments and sculptures dedicated to various units of the Air Force.

 

I was there for a few hours in the afternoon, but you could easily spend a couple of days here. After two visits, I’m still nowhere near seeing it all, I’m sure!

Circus Trip 2018: Ellsworth Air Force Base

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Box Elder, South Dakota is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Ellsworth Air Force Base is home to an aviation museum called the South Dakota Air and Space Museum that is well worth a visit.  It is small, but they have exhibits about the base, the history of barnstorming in the area, satellite photography and other aviation related information.  They also discussed some of the local men and women who served in the Air Force here.  It was all really interesting.

When I got there, they were signing people up for the 3 pm bus tour of the base, which lasted 90 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was only 2:10 pm and I hadn’t planned to stay there until 4:30 pm.  I was tempted though!

Most of the display planes at the base were outside; I wandered among them at my leisure and took a lot of photos.  It was such a great museum, and free!  The base tour is $10, which is still very reasonable.  One day I’ll get back there and check it out.

As I was finishing up my wanders around the airplanes outdoors, it started to rain.  Big, fat raindrops of a type we rarely get in Washington.  I even needed my umbrella and made sure to get back the car in a hurry before I got soaked!

 

Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This large museum building is tucked away in a corner of Paine Field in Everett, Washington.  I visited in August 2017 on the way home from a long weekend in Portland to visit Antiques Roadshow!  The museum is the lifelong dream of Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft – he has long had a passion for historic aircraft, and set about acquiring some of the rarest examples of military aircraft in the world.  Many of the planes are in restored and flyable condition – and they are spectacular!

The museum has excellent information on each plane, both the make and model of the particular plane on display, as well as the particulars of the plane that is sitting before you, and how it was acquired.  I am a nerd for that kind of detail, so I enjoyed reading all the signs and taking good long looks at the planes.

 

Allen branched out into collecting other types of military vehicles as well, and eventually had to change the name of the museum to reflect the fact that it wasn’t all planes.  The museum has all sorts of Jeeps, tanks, transport vehicles, rocket launchers and other types of combat armored vehicles.  It is really interesting to see.

 

There is a great exhibit on World War I and II; and the history of events that led up to the world being embroiled in battle twice in less than 30 years.  There was a lot of information in that room, as well as replicas of the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs.

Fat Man and Little Boy (replicas)

 

There is even the trophy for the X-Prize that Paul Allen and his team won in 2004 – for being the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks – it came with a $10 million prize too, but that wasn’t on display.

Some of my favorite planes though, are the ones with the nose art.  They are so beautiful – and really represent the character and personality of the pilot who flew the plane.  I have seen some really nice nose art at various museum, and loved the artwork here.

 

The museum is well worth the $16 cost of admission, and even Shelley’s teenage son Jack, who was pretty blah about going, had to admit in the end that he really enjoyed it.  It was a great end to a nice long weekend.