Visiting The Air Mobility Command Museum

Military history, Air Force, planes

Air Mobility Command Museum

Two years ago as we were heading home from Florida we stopped outside of Augusta, GA. Looking for things to see in the area, we found the Army Signal Corps Museum at Fort Gordon. It turned out to be a fascinating visit. Did you know that the US Weather Service was formed from the Signal Corps? We learned that there are many such museums across the country for The Army, Navy and Air Force.  We saw a sign on our way to Delaware Seashore State Park for the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB and planned a visit. Steve will explain the history of this branch of the Air Force in the video below. The museum is accessible without going onto the base and there is no entrance fee..

C-5 engine, plane

Steve With C-5 Engine

We parked and started wandering through two buildings displaying restored engines. One was a C-5 engine. To give some scale Steve (6′) stood next to the engine. Later this year the museum will be obtaining a C-5 for display. Most of the restoration work and guide service is done by 120+ volunteers. (Chari) When I was in the Air Force and stationed at Altus AFB, OK the C-5 was the newest transport plane. The base was a pilot training base for the C-5. I had an opportunity to tour the plane and sit in the pilot’s seat. No, they didn’t let me fly it!

C-5, plane

C-5 Super Galaxy Taking Off From Dover AFB

We weren’t sure which way to go next or if we could just walk out to the planes unescorted. A man riding a bicycle stopped and asked what planes we wanted to see. “What ever we can see” we answered. “I don’t get out of the office much but let me show you my favorite then you can tour on your own”. He never did say who he was but we had the feeling he was the museum director. He returned with keys to the C-124A and took us inside. He explained that the plane had been found in terrible shape and had taken hundreds of hours to restore. He spoke of the history of the plane and how just getting supply trucks up the very steep ramp with no side rails was a feat in itself.

Our Private Tour

Our Private Tour

Inside The C-124

Inside The C-124

Cockpit Of C 124

Cockpit Of C 124

From there we wandered around the display area while 40s swing music played over the loud speaker. All of the planes are well marked and have a plaque giving a brief history of their use and time in service.  Rather than talk about this in written format, we’ve put together a video similar in style to the tour of Norfolk Harbor. Enjoy!


Then inside is an extensive collection of memorabilia related to early military aviation including the development of roundels that Steve talked about in the Udvar-Hazy post. While Steve was exploring some exhibits, I watched a video on the use of gliders in WWII and D-Day. I didn’t have time to see the whole film but what I did see was very interesting. There are several simulators where you can try “flying” or landing a plane. A long hallway leading to the museum store is lined with photos and short biographies of Congressional Medal of Honor winners from all branches. Did you know there are over 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients?

Inside The Museum Hanger

Inside The Museum Hanger

Early Roundels

Early Roundels

Another Change In 1918

Another Change In 1918

insignia 2

1917 Style

1940 Version

1940 Version

More Changes In 1942

More Changes In 1942

Again in 1943

Again in 1943

insignia 8

Current Version

museum, airplane

Pint Sized Plane

Congressional Medal Of Honor, museum

Wall Honoring Medal Of Honor Winners

(Steve)   I thought this might be a good place for another “history lesson”.  Chari began this post by saying MATS, the Military Air Transport Service, was a combined Command of the Air Force and the Navy.  It came into being under the newly created Department of Defense on June 1, 1948.  Less than a month later, the first major crisis of the Cold War erupted, and MATS faced a huge test.  As you are about to read, it performed magnificently. 

I received most of my information for what follows on-line and copied directly in some instances from Wikipedia.  To read about this more fully, please see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade

 Operation Vittles        The Berlin Airlift

At the end of the Second World War, the Allies (England, France, The United States, and the Soviet Union) partitioned Germany into four sectors.  The city of Berlin, lying wholly within the Soviet sector, was also divided into four sections, each governed by military authorities from Allied forces. 

 I won’t go into the entire history of the Cold War, but for now, suffice it to say that tensions were rising between the Soviets and the Western powers. 

 In June of 1948, the Soviet Union, in an attempt to gain complete control of Berlin, closed all land routes; road, rail and canal; through their sector of Germany to the city.  This would mean all supplies; food, fuel, everything required by the population of a city, would be delivered through Russian sources, and ensuring their complete control.  To force the Allies to cede control, the Russians stopped supplying the non-Soviet sectors of Berlin.  The people of West Berlin had at this time a 36-day supply of food and 45-day supply of coal. 

Military forces in the western sectors of Berlin numbered only 8,973 Americans, 7,606 British and 6,100 French.  Soviet military forces in the Soviet sector that surrounded Berlin totaled one and a half million.  The “Cold War” was facing its first real crisis.

General Lucius D. Clay, in charge of the US Occupation Zone in Germany, summed up the reasons for not retreating in a cable to Washington, D.C., on June 13, 1948: “There is no practicability in maintaining our position in Berlin and it must not be evaluated on that basis…. We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent.”  General Clay felt that the Soviets were bluffing about Berlin since they would not want to be viewed as starting World War III. He believed that Stalin did not want a war and that Soviet actions were aimed at exerting military and political pressure on the West to obtain concessions, relying on the West’s prudence and unwillingness to provoke a war. Commander of United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) General Curtis LeMay reportedly favored an aggressive response to the blockade, in which his B-29s with fighter escort would approach Soviet air bases while ground troops attempted to reach Berlin.  Clay vetoed the plan.

Although the ground routes had never been negotiated, the same was not true of the air. On 30 November 1945, it had been agreed in writing that there would be three twenty-mile-wide air corridors providing free access to Berlin. Additionally, unlike a force of tanks and trucks, the Soviets could not claim that cargo aircraft were some sort of military threat. In the face of unarmed aircraft refusing to turn around, the only way to enforce the blockade would have been to shoot them down. An airlift would force the Soviet Union into the position of either shooting down unarmed humanitarian aircraft, breaking their own agreements, or backing down.

Enforcing this would require an airlift that really worked. If the supplies could not be flown in fast enough, Soviet help would eventually be needed to prevent starvation. Clay was told to take advice from LeMay to see if an airlift was possible. LeMay, initially taken aback by the inquiry, which was “Can you haul coal?”, replied “We can haul anything.”

British Air Commodore Reginald Waite had previously calculated the resources required to support the entire city. They would need to supply seventeen hundred calories per person per day, giving a grand total of 646 tons of flour and wheat, 125 tons of cereal, 64 tons of fat, 109 tons of meat and fish, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes, 180 tons of sugar, 11 tons of coffee, 19 tons of powdered milk, 5 tons of whole milk for children, 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking, 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables, 38 tons of salt and 10 tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over two million people alive. Additionally, the city needed to be kept heated and powered, which would require another 3,475 tons of coal and gasoline.

Lucius Clay launched “Operation Vittles” on June 25, 1948.  The next day thirty-two C-47s lifted off for Berlin hauling 80 tons of cargo, including milk, flour, and medicine. The first British aircraft flew on June 28. At that time, the airlift was expected to last three weeks.  By July first, the system was beginning to get underway, but quantities of food were extremely limited and didn’t come close to supplying the amounts required to sustain the city. Rhein-Main Air Base became exclusively a C-54 hub, while Wiesbaden retained a mix of C-54s and C-47s. Aircraft flew northeast through the American air corridor into Tempelhof Airport, then returned due west flying out on through the British air corridor. After reaching the British Zone, they turned south to return to their bases. The British ran a similar system, flying southeast from several airports in the Hamburg area through their second corridor into RAF Gatow in the British Sector, and then also returning out on the center corridor, turning for home or landing at Hanover. On July 6 the British Yorks and Dakotas were joined by Short Sunderland Flying Boats. Their corrosion-resistant hulls suited them to the particular task of delivering baking and other salt into the city.

Accommodating the large number of flights to Berlin required maintenance schedules and fixed cargo loading times. Smith and his staff developed a complex timetable for flights called the “block system”: three eight-hour shifts of a C-54 section to Berlin followed by a C-47 section. Aircraft were scheduled to take off every four minutes, flying 1000 feet higher than the flight in front. This pattern began at 5,000 feet and was repeated five times. This system of stacked inbound serials was later called “the ladder.”

By the second week, 1000 tons were being delivered daily.  For an operation expected to last only a few weeks, this was considered sufficient.  But the Soviets ridiculed the project.  Referring to “the futile attempts of the Americans to save face and to maintain their untenable position in Berlin.”

At a meeting with General Clay in late July, the National Security Council recognized that a long-term program would be necessary.  Deputy commander for operations of the newly formed MATS, Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner took command of the operation. Tunner had considerable airlift experience, successfully reorganizing the wartime Hump Airbridge between India and China, doubling the tonnage and hours flown.

Eight squadrons of C-54s—72 aircraft were deployed to Wiesbaden and Rhein-Main to reinforce the 54 already in operation, the first by July 30 and the remainder by mid-August, and two-thirds of all C-54 aircrew worldwide began transferring to Germany. 

On August 13, bad weather caused an accident, involving three C-54s.  No one was killed, but the airport was closed and all stacked aircraft awaiting landing were sent home.  As a result several new rules were adopted, including instrument flight rules to be in effect at all times, regardless of weather.  Also, each aircraft would have one chance to land.  If it missed, it would return home rather than attempt another landing.  There was an immediate decrease in delays and accidents.  Tunner saw that it took just as long to unload a three and a half ton C-47 as a ten ton C-54. One of the reasons for this was the sloping cargo floor of the C-47s, which made truck loading difficult. The C-54’s cargo deck was level, so that a truck could back up to it and offload cargo quickly. Tunner decided to replace all C-47s in the Airlift with C-54s or larger aircraft.  He saw that ground crews taking refreshment breaks were taking up valuable time going to and from snack bars and forbade them from leaving their work areas.  Jeeps were set up as mobile snack bars.  Unloading of aircraft began as soon as engines were shut down, and the turn-around time before take-off back to Rhein-Main or Wiesbaden was reduced to thirty minutes.  The “ladder” was altered from a plane taking off once every four minutes to once every three, with the vertical separation reduced to 500 feet rather than 1000, maximizing use of available aircraft.  Aircraft maintenance schedule were instituted at 25-hour, 200-hour, and 1000-hour intervals, further maximizing efforts. 

Crews of local Berliners, working for increased rations, replaced military crews for runway repairs and unloading aircraft, and with experience, became extremely efficient.  The times for unloading continued to fall, with a record being set by the unloading of an entire 10-ton shipment of coal from a C-54 in ten minutes, later beaten when a twelve-man crew unloaded the same quantity in five minutes and 45 seconds.

By the end of August, after only one month, the Airlift was succeeding; daily operations flew more than 1,500 flights a day and delivered more than 4,500 tons of cargo, enough to keep West Berlin supplied. All of the C-47s were withdrawn by the end of September, and eventually 225 C-54s (40% of US Air Force and US Navy Skymasters worldwide) were devoted to the lift. Supplies improved to 5,000 tons a day.

Gail Halvorsen, one of the many Airlift pilots, decided to use his off time to fly into Berlin and make movies with his hand-held camera. He arrived at Tempelhof on 17 July on one of the C-54s and walked over to a crowd of children who had gathered at the end of the runway to watch the aircraft. He introduced himself and they started to ask him questions about the aircraft and their flights. As a goodwill gesture, he handed out his only two sticks of chewing gum, and promised that, if they did not fight over them, the next time he returned he would drop off more. The children quickly divided up the pieces as best they could. Before he left them, a child asked him how they would know it was him flying over, and he replied, “I’ll wiggle my wings.”

The next day, on his approach to Berlin, he rocked the aircraft and dropped some chocolate bars attached to a handkerchief parachute to the children waiting below. Every day after that the number of children increased and he made several more drops. Soon there was a stack of mail in Base Ops addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, “The Chocolate Uncle” and “The Chocolate Flier”. His commanding officer was upset when the story appeared in the news, but when Tunner heard about it he approved of the gesture and immediately expanded it into “Operation Little Vittles”. Other pilots participated, and when news reached the US, children all over the country sent in their own candy to help out. Soon, the major manufacturers joined in. In the end, over three tons of candy were dropped on Berlin, and the “operation” became a major propaganda success. The candy-dropping aircraft were christened “Rosinenbomber” (raisin bomber) by the German children.

As winter approached, it became clear that while the amount of food being delivered would remain unchanged, coal supplies would have to be dramatically increased to heat the city, by approximately 6000 tons per day. Aircraft were available but runways in Berlin were already overtaxed.  Another 6,000 foot long asphalt runway was constructed at Tempelhof.  The French, meanwhile, unable to do more than supply their own troops in Berlin, agreed that they would build a new airport in their sector, on the shores of Lake Tegel.  There was an obstacle in the approach to the Tegel airfield, however. A Soviet-controlled radio tower caused problems by its proximity to the airfield. Pleas to remove it went unheard, so on November 20, French General Jean Ganeval made the decision simply to blow it up. The mission was carried out on December 16, much to the delight of Berliners, and provoking complaints from the Soviets. When his Soviet counterpart, General Alexej Kotikow, asked him angrily on the phone how he could have done this, Ganeval is said to have answered him laconically, “With dynamite, my dear colleague.”

Winter weather created another problem.  One of the longest-lasting fogs ever experienced blanketed the entire European continent for weeks. All too often, aircraft would make the entire flight and then be unable to land in Berlin. On November 20, 42 aircraft departed for Berlin, but only one landed there. At one point, the city had only a week’s supply of coal left.

The weather improved, however. More than 171,000 tons were delivered in January 1949, 152,000 tons in February, and 196,223 tons in March.

By April 1949 airlift operations were running smoothly and Tunner wanted to break the monotony. He liked the idea of a big event that would give everyone a morale boost. He decided that on Easter Sunday the airlift would break all records. To do this, maximum efficiency was needed. To simplify handling, the only cargo would be coal, and stockpiles were built up for the effort. Maintenance schedules were altered so that the maximum number of aircraft would be available.

From noon on 15 April to noon on 16 April 1949, crews worked around the clock. When it was over, 12,941 tons of coal had been delivered in 1,383 flights, without a single accident. A welcome side effect of the effort was that operations in general were boosted, and tonnage increased from 6,729 tons to 8,893 tons per day thereafter. In total, the airlift delivered 234,476 tons in April.

On 21 April the tonnage of supplies flown into the city exceeded that previously brought by rail.

The Soviets were humiliated by the success of the airlift, and the “Easter Parade” was the last straw.  Serious negotiations began, and on May 4, it was announced that the blockade would be lifted eight days later.  On the 12th a British Convoy drove through the Soviet sector of Germany to Berlin.

The blockade was over.  The airlift continued, however, until a comfortable surplus of three-months supplies was in Berlin, enough to provide plenty of time for operations to begin again if required.  They were not.  “Operation Vittles”, the Berlin Airlift was officially closed on September 30, 1949. 

In total the USA delivered 1,783,573 tons and the RAF 541,937 tons, totaling 2,326,406 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.

The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) delivered 7,968 tons of freight and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties. The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92 million miles in the process, almost the distance from Earth to the Sun. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

Pilots came from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.

A total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Brits and 31 Americans, mostly due to crashes. Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation.

The cost of the Airlift was shared between the USA, UK, and Germany. Estimated costs range from approximately $224,000,000 to over $500,000,000 (equivalent to approximately $2.16 billion to $4.82 billion today).

The “Cold War” would continue however, for decades to come.

It was mid afternoon by the time we finished at the MAC Museum. We tried to see the Victrola museum but it was closed that day as was an old church and museum we’d passed on the way up. The town of Lewes (pronounced like Louis) which proudly calls itself the First Town in the First State has great kayaking possibilities and lots of history. We checked out Cape Henlopen State Park and found our trailer would work well in those campsites. So now we have a place to stay “When we come back…”

 museum, Dover

The Johnson Victrola Museum

Spring Comes To Winterthur

Winterthur In Spring 2013

Winterthur In Spring 2013

We are sorry for the break in our posts recently. With spring arriving we’ve been out and about almost every day and haven’t have much time to write. Thanks for staying with us. We are now over 4,000 views and growing!

When we put Delaware on our Spring route we also made a note to visit Winterthur (pronounced winter-tour) near Wilmington. It was almost a two hour drive from our campground but well worth the effort. (Chari) I wanted to visit here for a long time. When I redecorated our bedroom in Charlotte I ordered prints from the museum store at Winterthur. This was the ancestral home of the duPont family from 1837 when it was a 12 room house until 1951 when the 175 room mansion on 1,000 acres became a museum open to the public. The original house was built by E. I. duPont’s daughter Evelina and her husband Jacques Antoine Bidderman. It was named Winterthur after Bidderman’s ancestral home in Switzerland. Winterthur is listed as the third largest historical home in the United States.

Who were the duPonts? We’ve all known of the DuPont Chemical Company and the products they discovered have touched all of our lives. Products such as neoprene (the first synthetic rubber), nylon, Corian, Mylar, Kevlar, Teflon, Tyvek, Freon and and Lycra are household names. (Steve) I’d always heard that the duPonts had made their fortune making gunpowder here during the Revolution. This I found out is a common misconception. The duPonts did make gunpowder used during the American Revolution but this was done in France. The family left France in 1800 to escape the French Revolution and settled in the Brandywine Valley of Delaware. It was here in 1802 that E. I duPont built an explosives factory. Their fortune rose during the War of 1812 when they became a major gunpowder supplier to the United States Army. Upon the death of the Jacques Bidderman, Evelina’s brother bought the home for his son, Henry A. duPont. H. A. du Pont was a graduate of West Point and a career Army officer who served during the Civil War. He served with General Philip Sheridan and won the Congressional Medal of Honor for actions in the Battle of Cedar Creek. He  became president and general manager of the Wilmington and Northern Railroad. He was the duPont who began the experimental dairy farm at Winterthur.  As if this weren’t enough, he also served two terms as senator from Delaware during the administrations of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson.

Henry A. duPont added a new facade and library wing to Winterthur in 1902. His son, H. F. duPont graduated from Harvard with a degree in agricultural development and horticulture. When his father went to Washington, DC he began to manage the dairy farm  and gardens at Winterthur. A new wing was added to the home substantially expanding its size. During this time, H. F. duPont became one of America’s biggest collectors of furniture and decor items. The majority of the items he collected are from 1640-1860. He strongly disliked the era known as the Empire period but collected some pieces. He refused to live in rooms decorated with them and kept these rooms for display only. He also was an avid horticulturist who developed the 60 acre naturalized setting that attracts visitors today. When the home was converted to a museum in 1951 he and his family downsized to a 35 room home called the Cottage on the property. This is where the museum shop is located today. Because of his vast knowledge of American decorative arts, Jacqueline Kennedy asked H. F. duPont to be head of the Fine Arts Committee which oversaw the renovation of the White House in the early 1960s.

Other notable members of the du Pont family not associated with Winterthur are Pierre duPont and Alfred duPont. Pierre was the co-inventor of the first smokeless gunpowder with his cousin T. Coleman duPont. Alfred du Pont, T. Coleman du Pont and E. I. duPont bought the DuPont Chemical company in 1902 to keep it in the family. In 1915 Alfred bought T. Coleman’s shares. This caused a rift between he and E. I. duPont and they ceased speaking to each other. Alfred oversaw modernization and growth of the DuPont company and served as chairman of General Motors. He donated millions of dollars some of which went to modernize the black public schools in Delaware. He built the Nemours mansion for his second wife.  Nemours is open for tours May-December. It shares the grounds with the duPont Hospital for children, another of his charities. His estate at Longwood Gardens was also opened to the public.

Today Winterthur has a Visitors Center and offers guided home tours, a museum of permanent and touring exhibits, a Conservation Center and a restaurant. The grounds can be walked free of charge. The Winterthur website lists what is currently blooming in the garden. When we were there the March Bank was in peak bloom with thousands of crocus, scillia, anemones and daffodils winding beneath yet to leaf trees. This was the first section of the garden to be planted by H. F. duPont.

Winterthur, flowers, garden

The March Bank In Bloom

Winterthur

A Walk At Winterthur

We took a docent led tour of two floors of the home and the conservatory that lasted almost an hour. Tours cover different floors of the six floor home on a rotating basis. There is a tour of the Conservation Center on the first Saturday of every month. The restaurant serves a brunch on Sundays. We’d hoped to return when over 1,000 azaleas grace the hillside but the cool Spring delayed their bloom until after we left the area. So when we come back…

Unlike so many of the historical homes we’ve visited photography is allowed inside. Some of the items we noted were the china belonging to Martha Washington and the portrait of George Washington by John Trumbull. Another painting of the  Treaty of Paris by Benjamin West is part of the extensive collection. The artist left the painting unfinished to express the idea that the fight for freedom is never done. With over 85,000 decor items the home is a place that can be visited more than once. You board a tram to ride up from the Visitors Center to the house. On the way you are given a brief history of the house and gardens. Our driver mentioned that when Hurricane Sandy was imminent last Fall everything in the house had to be moved out of harms way at least 3 feet away from any window.

Winterthur, tour

Looking Down A Hallway At Winterthur

Winterthur, antiques

Guest Living Room

Winterthur, decor

Inside Winterthur

Antiques At Winterthur

Antiques At Winterthur

Dining Room At Winterthur

Dining Room At Winterthur

One Of The 175 Rooms

One Of The 175 Rooms

Spiral Staircase At Winterthur

Spiral Staircase At Winterthur

Washington, art

George Washington Portrait 1790

Unfinished Artwork Of The Treaty Of Paris

Unfinished Artwork Of The Treaty Of Paris

Campbells Soup Company, soup tureen

Campbells Soup Company Tureen Collection

One of our favorite parts of the visit was the wing housing the Campbell Soup Company collection of soup tureens. Most are 18th century but cover modern times as well. The collection consists of items made for European royalty by porcelain manufacturers, silversmiths and court supported artists for display or for expensive gifts. There was one tureen that originally had been thought to be made in 1738. The Conservation Center was able to determine that chromium had been used in the glaze. That meant the tureen was made no earlier than 1800 as chromium wasn’t used prior to that date.

If you ever tour the Brandywine Valley area do take a day to visit Winterthur. You won’t be disappointed.

Antique Soup Tureen

Antique Soup Tureen

Turtle Soup Anyone?

Turtle Soup Anyone?

Contemporary Soup Tureens

Contemporary Soup Tureens

While the home and gardens are almost overwhelming in their scope don’t miss the museum adjacent to the Visitors entrance at the house. You can tour here even if you opt not to buy an house tour ticket. These are permanent collections on loan to Winterthur.

Silver And Ornamental Iron Collection

Silver And Ornamental Iron Collection

Ceramics, Glass and Metal Exhibit

Ceramics, Glass and Metal Exhibit

Staffordshire Figurines

Staffordshire Figurines

Arlington National Cemetery

HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

March 28 was a cool and blustery day, and we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery.  Again, we parked the truck at the Vienna Metro Station and took the train.  As Chari has mentioned, it’s a clean, efficient system, and really the only way to get around in the D.C. area.

We’ve visited a lot of cemeteries since we’ve been on the road, and we love wandering and looking at the old tombstones and markers, some centuries old, and wondering about the lives of the people interred there.  Sometimes we’ve visited military cemeteries, usually at the site of a National Battlefield, like Little Bighorn or Gettysburg.  It’s different in these places.  The battlefield graves are not of people who lived out their natural lives, but are of men and women whose lives were cruelly interrupted by the horrors of war and who never returned to the arms of their families and friends.  Other graves in these military cemeteries are of veterans of all American wars who survived their wartime experiences and were able to return to a normal life.

But this is different.  This is Arlington.  This place is special.  You feel it as you enter the gates, along with thousands of other people, both citizens of the United States and citizens of the world, who come to pay their respects.  This is not just another military cemetery, although in some respects, it is just that.  Veterans of all of our armed conflicts are eligible for burial here, and as at the others, you feel a profound sense of respect for those who lie in the thousands of graves.  But this is Arlington.  This place is special.  This is where we honor our greatest heros.  Arlington.

Arlington1

The first thing you see as you enter and look to the top of the hill is Arlington House, with the American Flag flying at half-staff.  Arlington house was built for George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson of our first President and only grandson of his wife, Martha Custis Washington.  Custis’ father, John Parke Custis, bought the 1100 acre property in 1778, and after the death of his grandmother, Martha in 1802, decided to build his home there and name it Mount Washington.  Family members convinced him to call it Arlington House, after their ancestral home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  An English architect, George Hadfield, who also participated in the design of the U.S. Capitol, designed the house.  Custis’ only surviving daughter, Mary, married her distant cousin Robert E. Lee, and in 1857 inherited the home.

At the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln offered command of the Federal Army to Lee, who declined and resigned to join the Confederate Army.  He reported to Richmond, and almost immediately wrote Mary advising her for her safety to leave her home due to its proximity to Washington.  Because of its high ground position overlooking the city, within days of her leaving it was occupied by Union troops.

View of Washington DC from Arlington House

View of Washington DC from Arlington House

General Irvin McDowel used the house as headquarters for his Army of Northeastern Virginia, and in 1864, Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, a Georgian who had served under Lee in the days before the war, believing Lee had made a treasonous decision in fighting against the Union, had Mrs. Lee’s prized rose garden dug up to bury twenty-six Union soldiers.

After the end of the Civil War, Robert and Mary Lee chose not to contest the Federal Government’s decision to confiscate the property during the war for “non-payment of taxes.”  But in 1870, when Robert E. Lee died, his oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, who would have inherited the estate, sued to regain the property.  It wasn’t until 1882 when the Supreme Court ruled in his favor.  In 1883, in a signing ceremony attended by the son of Robert E. Lee and the son of Abraham Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln (then Secretary of War) the estate was sold back to the Federal Government for $150,000, about three and a half million in today’s dollars.

So much for the history of the estate.  Now on to the cemetery itself.

“BENEATH THIS STONE REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK.  THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED, BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS.  MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.  SEPTEMBER A.D. 1866”

“BENEATH THIS STONE REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS GATHERED AFTER THE WAR FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANNOCK. THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED, BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. SEPTEMBER A.D. 1866”

We took the bus tour through the cemetery.  The driver/tour guide spoke of various monuments and facts throughout the tour, but we only made three scheduled stops, at the John F. Kennedy grave, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and finally at Arlington House.  We were free to wander on our own at each stop, and then pick up another bus to continue the tour.  Since, as I mentioned, it was a chilly and blustery day, we didn’t spend a lot of time on our own, but someday we’d love to go back and spend the entire day wandering and exploring the cemetery.

THE ETERNAL FLAME AT THE GRAVE OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY

THE ETERNAL FLAME AT THE GRAVE OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY

AND SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS,  ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, ASK NOT WHAT AMERICA WILL DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT TOGETHER WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN

AND SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS,
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU
ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY.
MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD, ASK NOT
WHAT AMERICA WILL DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT TOGETHER
WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN

Today’s politicians, of both parties, who profess to revere Kennedy, would do well to remember these words instead of pandering to those looking for a handout.

From the walkway not far from Kennedy’s grave, I saw the back of a stone for Michael A. Musmanno, whom I had never heard of, but I was intrigued by reading that he was a presiding judge at the International War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg.  I looked him up on-line afterward, and found he led a very interesting life.  He served in the Navy in both World Wars, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral.  In civilian life after World War II he served as a justice in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania until his passing in 1968.  He must have been quite a controversial character, as in his tenure, he himself wrote more dissenting opinions then in the previous fifty years of the court combined!  I only saw the back of his stone, but was able to find a photo of the front on-line.

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The quote on the front of the stone reads:

“There is an eternal justice and an eternal order, there is a wise, merciful and omnipotent God. My friends, have no fear of the night or death. It is the forerunner of dawn, a glowing resplendent dawn, whose iridescent rays will write across the pink sky in unmistakable language – man does live again.’ 

The final words of Michael A. Musmanno in his debate with Clarence Darrow, 1932.”

I found another stone quite interesting.  Again, from my position I was only able to see the back, but it indicated that the person buried there was a veteran of the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II.  A long military career indeed!  There was a number on the back of the stone, so I did a bit of research on-line and found his name was Frank Fletcher, and not only did he serve in those three wars, he was a Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Mexican Campaign in 1914.  He was Task Force Commander at the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II, the first battle in history fought between Aircraft Carrier groups, and the first battle where opposing forces were out of sight of each other.  Two destroyers bore the Fletcher name.  The first, DD-445 was named for his uncle, the second, DD-992 was named for him.

This is all I saw.  Note the number at the top of the stone.

This is all I saw. Note the number at the top of the stone.

I found this picture while researching the number.

I found this picture while researching the number.

For a very interesting internet article about Admiral Fletcher, see:     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Jack_Fletcher

There is a memorial to the Battleship Maine, which exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898 and was a cause of the Spanish American War.  Was it truly sabotage, as the American press professed?  Or was the cause of the explosion a fire in a coal bunker?  The controversy goes on to this day.  Admiral Fletcher, by the way, at one point had served on the Maine.  The actual mast of the Maine is part of the memorial, as well as the names of the 261 fatalities carved into the monument.  I found it interesting while looking at the names of the marines and sailors that several of the sailors had rates which no longer exist.  Like John T. Adams “Coal Passer” (I envision a bare chested, sweaty man covered in black coal dust with a large flat shovel piling coal into a boiler), Charles Anderson “Landsman”, and Bernhard Anglund “Blacksmith”.  And how times have changed from when Orientals served in the American Navy as cooks or servants.  Suki Chingi “Mess Attendant” and Yukichi Katagata “Warrant Officer Cook”.

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We saw a memorial to the Challenger Astronauts.

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And a tribute to the Americans who lost their lives in the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran in 1980.

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But by far, the most impressive sight at Arlington is the Tomb of the Unknowns.  There are unknowns buried at most battlefield military cemeteries.  In wars up to and including the Civil War, the only way to identify a dead soldier was if someone who knew the man could identify the body.  Or if he had some personal belongings such as a letter or a bible on his person.  By World War I most soldiers were wearing some sort of identification, but oftentimes these were lost and the bodies remained unidentified.  After “The Great War”, it was decided to create a monument to The Unknown Soldier, thus honoring every soldier killed in battle whose identity was forever lost.  The soldier chosen would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The process of choosing a particular person to be so honored was quite complex.  The custom was followed for World War II and Korea, and again for the conflict in Vietnam, although by Vietnam, means of identification were much improved, and the remains selected were eventually identified and returned to his family.  For an extremely interesting internet article about the selection process, please see:  http://www.456fis.org/THE_SELECTION_PROCESS_OF_THE_UNKNOWN_SOLDIERS.htm

The Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

The Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater, location of the Tomb of the Unknowns

STANDING GUARD

STANDING GUARD

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Inside the Amphitheater is a small museum, housing artifacts relating to the Unknown Soldier Tomb.  Honors from countries all over the world are on exhibit.  One I found very interesting was a letter from the King of England in 1921 thanking the American people for bestowing on the British Unknown Soldier from World War I the Congressional Medal of Honor, and so honoring ours with the Victoria Cross.  The flags that draped the caskets of each of our soldiers, from WWI to Vietnam are on display, along with the Medals of Honor issued to them.

LETTER FROM KING GEORGE

LETTER FROM KING GEORGE

MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION SIGNED BY PRESIDENT REAGAN AND CASKET FLAG FOR THE VIETNAM UNKNOWN

MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION SIGNED BY PRESIDENT REAGAN AND CASKET FLAG FOR THE VIETNAM UNKNOWN

Quite by accident, while visiting the rest room, we happened by a soldier explaining to a family including a young boy, probably about twelve years old, about the proper procedure for placing a wreath at the tomb.  The lad was extremely attentive, and I found out later he was being instructed because he was going to place a wreath there.

We were privileged to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, and it was very moving.  Although there was a crowd of a couple of hundred people watching, including many children, there was dead silence.  You could hear a pin drop.  The following video lasts for about six or seven minutes.  It’s a bit shaky in places, I was holding my small pocket camera, but turn on your volume and note the silence and respect of the spectators.

And please, as an American, please make the effort to visit Arlington.

Paradise Saved – A Week At Assateague National Seashore

Dreamchaser At Delaware Seashore State Park Against Bridge Lights

DreamChaser At Delaware Seashore State Park Against Bridge Lights

Assateague campground panorama

Assateague National Seashore Panorama

After spending the Easter holiday with family in Pennsylvania, we towed the Dreamchaser  to Delaware Seashore State Park. Since Steve’s brother and wife would be staying with us for four days we’d looked for a park with full services. To be honest we hadn’t really paid that much attention to anything else. We’d visualized a beach campground similar to Huntington Beach in SC or First Landing in VA. So when we drove in to find a big, open parking lot with spaces as tightly packed as possible next to a construction site… well, at $40/night disappointed doesn’t quite cover it. I hated it from day one and only moved up the scale to barely tolerable after a few days. We’ll give it a 1.5 on our scale of 1-5. Good points were a new tiled bath house, full hookups and a sandy beach. If traveling with pets note that dogs are prohibited on the beach from May 1-September 30. Fortunately we were before that so Opal had good long beach walks even though you had to cross two roads and parking lots to get there. Bad points were tight sites such that if this campground were full it would have been very difficult to park our 35′ trailer, no view, no area for dog walking in campground, no access to the bay from campground, no information about where to find park headquarters, trails or boat launch and no safe place for bike riding. We were supposed to stay two weeks but by the end of the first week we were ready to move on. The only time we did have a view was at night when darkness covered the industrial area and the bridge was lit a brilliant blue.

The DSSP Campground

The DSSP Campground

Delaware Seashore State Park campground

“View” From Our Site

Nature Won This One

Nature Won This One

Picnic On A Windy Day

Picnic On A Windy Day

While Fred and Chris were visiting we drove an hour south to Maryland and the Assateague National Seashore. Located ten miles south of Ocean City, Maryland, Assateague was connected to the mainland until a hurricane in 1933 opened the connection between Assateague and Fenwick Island to the bay. It was love at first sight. The white sandy beach stretches for fifteen miles. This paradise was almost lost. In the 1950s developers had built a road called Baltimore Boulevard with 130 side roads ready for homes and stores. The 1962 hurricane caused the road to crumble and development was curtailed. In 1965 the area was turned over to the NPS and it was saved for us to enjoy today.

Opal Had A Good Time Too!

Opal Had A Good Time Too!

10 Little Cormorants

10 Little Cormorants

Wide Angle Photo Of Driftwood

Wide Angle Photo Of Driftwood

Playing With Shells And Sand

Playing With Shells And Sand

old fish factory graphic grunge copy

Old Fish Factory

Assateague was everything we’d hoped the other park would be except the campground doesn’t have services. Once it was just the two of us again we decided to change parks. We’d never dry camped before but there were going to be times it would be required this summer. Might as well start learning. There was no refund for early departure from Delaware Seashore State Park. We just chalked this up to our learning curve. With our senior pass a site at Assateague was $10/night until the new reservation season began on 4/15 then $12.50/night. With a few changes in our routine to conserve water and using our generator we managed very well. There are two campgrounds at Assateague, the 40 site Oceanside where we stayed and the larger Bayside campground. We were fortunate to get our pick of sites and chose one right next to the boardwalk leading to the beach. We were surrounded by red winged blackbirds and others that sang a chorus every morning.

Head Shot Of Assateague Horse

Head Shot Of Assateague Horse

We spent a wonderfully relaxing week doing what everyone does pre-season at the beach; walking, lounging, biking and taking pictures. Watching for wild horses is on everyone’s list. They roam free throughout the park. You know where they’ve been by the piles left all over. The herd is kept at about 150 animals to prevent overgrazing. Mares that are 2, 3, and 4 years old are given an annual injection to prevent pregnancy via a dart gun. At five years old they are allowed to breed once. The horses receive no feed or vet services except in an emergency. Although there are signs all over saying not to feed wildlife we saw a family feeding and petting a horse right in the middle of the road. We let them know that this was bad for the animal as it teaches them to come onto the roadway. Contrary to what most people think the horses did not descend from survivors of wrecked Spanish ships. They were turned loose on the island by early colonials trying to evade taxes. There is an excellent film at the Visitor Center about the horses.

Panorama Of Wild Horses On Bay Side Of Island

Panorama Of Wild Horses On Bay Side Of Island

Assateague, wild horses

Our First Horse On The Beach

A wild Stallion

A Wild Stallion

Steve Photographing Wild Horse

Steve Photographing Wild Horse

Steve bought an OSV (over sand vehicle) pass that allowed us to drive 12 miles on the beach to the Virginia line. Vehicles must have four wheel drive and you are responsible for carrying safety equipment with you in case you get stuck. Dual wheels are prohibited. Before entering you lower tire pressure to 15 psi and upon exiting there is an air station to inflate them. The NPS limits the number of vehicles on the beach at any one time to 145. During the summer this can mean a wait of 2-3 hours until someone exits. While we were there no more than 15 were in at one time. We’d drive along and see an occasional fisherman. Yes, we are spoiled by being here in the shoulder season.  The pass is good for a year in case we get back this way.

It’s News To Us

museum, news, Washington DC

View Of The Capitol From Newseum Patio

With so many places to see and things to do in the Washington, DC area, it can be difficult to prioritize what to see next. On Chari’s list was a museum that had opened since she left the area. It is a museum dedicated to print, radio, TV and now digital media. It’s a museum about news, the Newseum, and is located at 7th and F streets. Since our truck with kayaks on top doesn’t fit into most parking garages, we rode the Metro in from Vienna to Metro Center, changed trains to Gallery Place and walked 4-5 blocks. The building is an impressive six story glass walled structure. Your ticket is good for two consecutive days so plan on either one very full day or split your visit between other attractions. Had we known how much there is to see, we’d have gotten there earlier. By the time we reached the upper floors we were cutting things short and this was after almost five hours there!

Newseum, Washington DC

View From Inside The Newseum

The view from the sixth floor is a must. The juxtaposition of the Newseum and the Capitol building speaks volumes in its silence. Two of the things that make our country great is Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. The three other Freedoms we are guaranteed are Freedom to Petition, Freedom to Assemble and Freedom of Religion. These Five Freedoms are well displayed in front of a tri-colored map showing the world separated into free press, partially controlled press, and no freedom of the press countries. In 2008 I was on an tour in Africa that included the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls. While we were on a river wildlife cruise one evening we spoke with a college student working as crew. When we asked about the upcoming elections, he dropped his voice and glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one could overhear his answer. It made me realize what it is to live in fear of stating one’s beliefs. As I began writing this post I started reading A Covert Affair by Jennet Conant about Paul and Julia Childs. The opening chapter is about Paul Childs being investigated during the McCarthy period when anyone and everyone could be suspected of having Communist tendencies. We are not immune. With all of the serious displays there is a humorous one too as you will see below. 

Freedom Of Speech

Freedom Of Speech

Freedom Of The Press

Freedom Of The Press

Freedom To Petition

Freedom To Petition

Freedom Of Assembly

Freedom Of Assembly

Freedom Of Religion

Freedom Of Religion

free press, Newseum

Free Press Wall Map

A Humorous Take On Freedom Of Speech

A Humorous Take On Freedom Of Speech

There was a temporary exhibit on the first floor titled FBI’s Top Ten Stories in the press. It covered from the Lindberg kidnapping to John Gotti, the Kennedy assassination, the Civil Rights movement, the Oklahoma Federal Building bombing, the Uni Bomber, Hoover and 9/11. I realized how many of these important events had occurred during my lifetime. Just looking at the displays transported me back in time. I was 16 and sitting in Spanish II when Kennedy was shot. Then I was in college in Boston when riots broke out following the MLK assassination. It was 1995 and I’d just come home from the hospital following cancer surgery when the Oklahoma bombing happened.  The Newseum will be opening a new exhibit about John and Jacqueline Kennedy in April.

FBI, Lindberg Kidnapping

FBI Exhibit On Lindberg Kidnapping

civil rights, FBI

The FBI And Civil Rights

The Uni-Bomber Exhibit Included His Cabin

The Uni-Bomber Exhibit Included His Cabin

Media Reports On The FBI And Organized Crime

FBI Exhibit On Organized Crime

FBI, Hoover

FBI Exhibit On Hoover

There was a section on famous men and women in journalism from Nelly Bly to Edward R. Murrow and Tim Russert. The one that caught my attention was Pauline Frederick. Who? I’d never heard of her either. Why, I don’t know. She was one of the first women to write regularly for name newspapers and to break into news broadcasting. When no head of state would allow themselves to be interviewed by a woman, she interviewed their wives as a way to get her work published. Eventually she wrote a book compiling these articles. She was the first female to broadcast from a foreign country  as a war correspondent and the first woman to be a full time employee of a US  television network (ABC). She moved to NBC where she became the reporter at the United Nations for 21 years. She returned to radio with NPR for the last five years of her career.

Pauline Frederick, Newseum

Pauline Frederick

Exhibit On Edward R. Murrow

Exhibit On Edward R. Murrow

Tim Russert, Newseum

Tim Russert’s Office At The Newseum

There was a display of all the Pulitzer Prize winning photographs from 1942 when the prize was originated to 2012. There are two categories each year: News and Feature. Occasionally there have been two photos honored in the same category.  No prize was issued in 1946. Sounds like a good Jeopardy question.

Pulitzer Prize Gallery

Pulitzer Prize Gallery

Pulitzer Prize Photos Displayed By Year

Pulitzer Prize Photos Displayed By Year

Samples Of Pulitzer Prize Photos

Samples Of Pulitzer Prize Feature Photos

Aerial Shot Of Lighthouse In Hurricane Seas

Aerial Shot Of Lighthouse In Hurricane Seas

Vietnam POW Comes Home

Vietnam POW Comes Home

Ruby Shoots Oswald 1963 Pulitzer Prize News Photo

Ruby Shoots Oswald 1963 Pulitzer Prize News Photo

Flag Raising At Iwo jima

Flag Raising At Iwo Jima

Nearby was a piece of the Berlin Wall and a guard tower with news reports of the wall being built, escape attempts and the wall being torn down. This is the largest section of the wall outside of Germany. In 1972 while in the Air Force I took a free flight on a KC-135 (refueling plane) and traveled for a month on my own. I started in Spain then flew on to Frankfurt. From there I boarded the nightly Army train from Frankfurt to West Berlin that crossed through East Germany. As we crossed the border Soviet soldiers came aboard to check everyone’s papers. It gave me a chill to think I was in a Communist country where people couldn’t move about freely. The wall separated the two parts of the city of Berlin. It was plain gray concrete then, cold and forbidding. It left an impression on me. Never did I think I’d see the wall demolished. 

Berlin Wall, Newseum

Steve Looking Up At The Berlin Wall And Tower

The other physically impressive exhibit was about 9-11. A wall several stories high is covered with front pages from around the world. In the center is the antenna that was mounted on the broadcast tower. Among those killed that day were six broadcast engineers who were at work for all of the major networks in New York City. Steve took a great picture of a young boy about 10 or so looking up at the wall. It struck both of us that there is a new generation now for whom this is history. They weren’t even born then.

A New Generation Wonders Why

A New Generation Wonders Why

World Trade Center, 9-11

World Trade Center Antenna

Artifacts From 9-11

Artifacts From 9-11

A Piece Of The Pentagon Damaged On 9-11

A Piece Of The Pentagon Damaged On 9-11

Steve Views History Of News And Print Gallery

Steve Views History Of News And Print Gallery

Realizing that we had less than an hour to finish the Newseum we went through the Presidential Pets gallery, the extensive rare documents display from 1455 to the present and saw the 4D movie. If you go to Washington DC put this museum on your list. You won’t be disappointed.

Flying High At The Udvar-Hazy Center

Udvar-Hazy Center, airplane, Smithsonian

A Panorama Of The Udvar-Hazy Center

Although sunny the next day it continued to be cool and windy so we decided to go see the extension of the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport. This is the Udvar-Hazy Center. While a hefty $15 parking fee is charged, the museum exhibits and tours are free. After having visited we felt the cost was well worth it. There is an additional charge to see the IMAX movie.

I’d lived in the Washington DC area from 1972-1992 and took advantage of the many offerings at the Smithsonian museums. It’s the thing I missed most when I moved away. I remember the opening of the original Air and Space Museum with the moon rock and the Wright flyer. I thought they’d never duplicate it. Duplicate? No. Expand to include numerous last existing models and planes too large to fit in the downtown museum, yes. The Udvar-Hazy Center opened in 2003.  Eventually the Center will house 300 aircraft. With a donation from American Airbus an addition is being planned to house the Restoration Center now located in Maryland.

steven_udvar-hazy_ilfc.jpgSo who is Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy and why does the Center bear his name? He is a Hungarian immigrant who lived the American dream of becoming a billionaire by co-founding an aircraft leasing company called International Lease Finance Corporation. His company is one of the two largest aircraft leasing companies. ILFC began as the brainchild of three men in their 20s with the leasing of a single used DC-8 to Aeromexico in 1973. According to Forbes Magazine in 2011 he was the 409th richest man with a net worth of 3.2 billion. In 1999 he donated $65,000,000 to build this facility. His family fled Hungary in 1958 during the Soviet occupation.

Airplanes, Smithsonian

As You Enter

Air and Space Museum,

A Sea Of Planes

All visitors must go through a Security Check. You must open all closed compartments in your bags/purses. I never realized how many pockets my purse had until I had to stand there and open each one! Next time I’ll just bring my wallet. We went to the Visitor Information Center to ask about an IMAX movie on the Hubble telescope. Then we saw that there would be a guided tour called the Highlights tour at 2pm and decided to take it. Good choice. It is a two hour tour given by very dedicated docents. These tours are done mostly on weekends as the museum concentrates on school and organization groups during the week. We highly recommend you take this tour but if two hours is too long they do have a one hour version called Highlights Light. The docents are mostly volunteers with a background in aviation, engineering or military service. They take a three month course in aviation history, aeronautical engineering and aircraft design. Then they must present material on all the planes included in the tour to a proctor before they are allowed to lead a Highlights tour. Our docent told us the group also holds a study group where individuals are asked to research a specific plane and present the material to the group. Other tours are available on specific aircraft. Our tour was very comprehensive. We probably only remember 5% of what we were told. I’d repeat this tour in a heartbeat! Our docent was Bill Hamilton and he was terrific.

Udvar-Hazy Center Ceiling

Udvar-Hazy Center Ceiling

museum, tour

Tour Guide At Udvar-Hazy Center

Docent Describing Antique Plane

Docent Describing Antique Plane

Stephen P. Langley, history

Looking Up At The Langley Aerodrome

The tour started with early aviation when they didn’t even call them airplanes just machines. There was a furious competition to be the first flying machine. The Aerodrome invented by Stephen P. Langley made several attempts to fly but never was successful. There was a feud between the Langley/Smithsonian group and the Wright family over the claim of first to fly.  A brief video about Steven P. Langley and his Aerodrome has been embedded from You Tube: 

The Fowler-Gage biplane was built in 1912 and used for exhibition and line check flights in California. It and designer/pilot Robert G. Fowler earned a place in history when in 1913 this plane flew 54 miles from the west coast to the east coast of Panama. The flight was done over dense jungle where there would was no safe place to land. The plane was retired in 1915.

biplane, history

Fowler-Gage Biplane

Roscoe Turner, early aviation

Roscoe Turner With Lion Cub

Our docent went on to discuss a few of the larger than life “characters” who risked life and limb in the early days of aviation. One of the early daredevils was a dashing pilot from Corinth,MS named Roscoe Turner. The scarf you see displayed was not worn just for effect. In those early days of open cockpits they were needed to wipe the thin engine oil that was thrown backwards onto the pilot’s goggles. He was a barnstorming performer, air racer and flew wealthy passengers to Reno for Nevada Airlines. He set the transcontinental airspeed record in 1930 at 12 hours and 33 minutes. One of Turner’s sponsors, The Gilmore Oil Company (eventually Mobil), gave him a lion cub called Gilmore. The cub often flew with him and had its own parachute. You can see a picture of them at the rear of the display. If they only would stay small! It didn’t take too long for his pet to outgrow the cockpit. So Turner donated him to a zoo. However, he would still come to visit. He’d stand at the edge of the lion den. Then when unsuspecting visitors were watching, he’d jump into the pit and call his old friend. The now full grown Gilmore would come charging over, much to the horror of onlookers, only to jump up and lick his face! When Gilmore died he was stuffed and kept in the Turner home. He is now in possession of the Smithsonian. Roscoe Turner worked with Howard Hughes and he is a character in the 2004 movie about Hughes. I think we’ll watch that again.

Someone, maybe it was me, I don’t remember, asked Bill, our tour guide, about the insignia on the underside of the wings on various military aircraft, and he proceeded to give us a very interesting talk on the history of roundels.  I’d never heard of the  term, but apparently it goes way back, probably having its origins on a round insignia on the shield of a knight in medieval times.  France was the first country to order the application of roundels in 1912, which consisted of a blue circle surrounded by a white circle surrounded by a red circle.  The Brits originally used a depiction of their Union Jack, but quickly changed at the outbreak of World War I because someone decided it looked too similar to the German Iron Cross.  They started using a red-rimmed white circle, but again quickly changed because that was very similar to neutral Denmark’s insignia.  They settled on a reversed French roundel, a red circle surrounded by white surrounded by blue.  I always got a chuckle from the fact that the English painted what looked like targets on their aircraft, but was chagrinned to find out that our early roundels were quite similar.  Our first aircraft insignia, during the war with Pancho Villa prior to WWI was a red star, quite similar to that used by Russia.  Naval aircraft used an anchor on the rudder of its seaplanes.  When we got into the war in Europe, we mimicked the Brits and French with another “target” insignia, this one a white circle surrounded by red surrounded by blue.  We soon had the good sense, however, to change to a red circle in the center of a white star, surrounded by a blue circle.  This doesn’t look like a target at all!  This lasted until the attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought us into World War II.  Someone decided that the red circle inside the star too much looked like the Japanese meatball (rising sun), the red circle insignia on their aircraft.  The red dot inside the star was removed.  The similarities of various nations, at least in times of poor visibility, caused many instances of “friendly fire” events, and a study revealed that the colors were not as important as the shape.  No one really saw that red dot inside our star anyway, but the round shape of the overall roundel could be confusing.  In 1943, we added a bar, or what looks like wings extending past the blue circle around the white star.  The entire symbol was outlined with a red line, which soon changed, I don’t know why, to a blue outline.  In 1947, a red stripe was added in the center of the white “wings”, and in the 70s the blue outline was eliminated.  It looks like these insignia will be forever evolving. 

Early Roundel

Early French Roundel

WWI US Roundel

WWI US Roundel

US Naval Aircraft With Red Dot

US Naval Aircraft With Red Dot

Modern USAF Roundel

Modern USAF Roundel

 

For a couple of interesting websites talking about this, visit the following links:

http://wwiisquadronpatches.com/NationalInsigniaHistoryUSAircraft.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_aircraft_insignia 

Well, we’d better pick up the pace here or this will turn out to be a thesis. Among the ten sections in the museum is one devoted to the aircraft of WWII. So many advances were made during this period. Many of them were break through technology by German scientists. For example the museum has the only existing Arado AR 234 B which is the first operational jet used in combat and outmaneuvered propeller planes easily. It was not as well known as another jet called the Messerschmidt 262 that appeared toward the closing days of WWII and briefly gave the Luftwaffe the air advantage it had known at the start of the war.

The one plane most everyone coming to the museum wants to see is the B-29 known as the Enola Gay. History has immortalized her pilot Paul Tibbits while the second plane and pilot that dropped the bomb over Nagasaki knows only anonymity. Bill, our guide, told us about a tour he’d had that included an elderly Japanese man. Bill said he was wondering what his reaction would be when they came to the Enola Gay. The man looked up and said “that plane saved my life.” Then he looked across at a Japanese bomber used for Kamikaze missions. He pointed to that plane and said “I was told to volunteer for a mission scheduled two weeks after the Enola Gay’s flight.”

WWII, airplane

Messerschmidt 163B

Arado 234B cockpit

Arado 234B cockpit

airplane, WWII

World War II Bomber

Enola Gay, WWII

Enola Gay Needs No Introduction

The First American Volunteer Group, known as the Flying Tigers, were recruited from Army, Navy and Marine pilots to help defend China from Japanese aggression prior to our entry into World War II.

The First American Volunteer Group, known as the Flying Tigers, were recruited from Army, Navy and Marine pilots to help defend China from Japanese aggression prior to our entry into World War II.

This plane was carried in pieces and assembled on the deck of a Japanese submarine.  It could be assembled three ways, the first being fully assembled, with pontoons, for take-off from the ocean surface.  It could be assembled without pontoons, and launched from the deck via catapult, recovery would be quite "iffy".  Thirdly, it could be assembled without pontoons and with a bomb welded to the fuselage. There would be no return possible for the pilot.

This plane was carried in pieces and assembled on the deck of a Japanese submarine. It could be assembled three ways, the first being fully assembled, with pontoons, for take-off and landing from the ocean surface. It could be assembled without pontoons, and launched from the deck via catapult, recovery would be quite “iffy”. Thirdly, it could be assembled without pontoons and with a bomb welded to the fuselage. There would be no return possible for the pilot.

One piece of trivia we learned was that the tip to tip wingspan of a B-29 was longer than the Wright Brothers first flight.

A brief video on the restoration of the Enola Gay has been embedded from You Tube: 

Then on to more modern Air Force and Navy planes. Here the most popular plane is the SR 71 Blackbird. The plane really is midnight blue not black but as our guide said, calling this plane The Bluebird just didn’t have the same ring. This plane flew coast to coast in the US in one hour and eight minutes!

Blackbird, jet

Looking Down On The SR 71

SR 71

SR 71 Profile

The Blackbird Is Really Blue

The Blackbird Is Really Blue

jet fighter, Smithsonian

Navy Jet Fighter

USAF Jet Fighter

USAF Jet Fighter

X35B Joint Services Fighter

X35B Joint Services Fighter

Oh, there’s a lot more to see here. The hanger style museum is eight stories high. Next on the tour were the  commercial aircraft. Airliners from the first luxury airliners like the Pan Am Clipper to the iconic Concorde are here. The Concorde was an engineering marvel but an economic failure. It carried 100 passengers at a cost of $12,000 per ticket. Then there is Steve Fossett’s Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. This is the plane he flew in 2005 to become the first person to solo around the world without refueling. Now think back to that first Langley plane and realize all of this occurred in 50 years. One of the most intriguing stories was about the Dash-80 precursor for the Boeing 707 doing an aerobatic barrel roll when it was first demonstrated to the public. If you are interested in hearing the story, please click on the You Tube video below.

Pan Am Clipper

Pan Am Clipper

Underneath The Concorde

Underneath The Concorde

VA flight around the world

Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer

Last but not least we enter a separate wing devoted to space exploration. In 2012 the space shuttle Discovery was delivered for permanent exhibition. Previously the trainer Enterprise had been on display. It has been moved to the Intrepid museum in new York City. Also on display are Mercury and Gemini capsules, the Airstream Quarantine RV for the astronauts and the Canadian Arm that allowed the space shuttle to do experiments and repairs in space. Did you ever want to be an astronaut? While we did not have time to try it, there is a space shuttle docking simulator you can operate. For those of us who remember Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight, the moon landing and now the space station, this is a fascinating exhibit. there is a tour devoted to space exploration. The next time we come (oh yes, there will be a next time) we’d like to take that tour.

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Engines

Space Shuttle Engines

Ceramic Tiles and Heat Shield On Discovery

Ceramic Tiles and Heat Shield On Discovery

Canadian Arm From Space Shuttle

Canadian Arm From Space Shuttle

Mercury Capsule

Mercury Capsule

Tight Quarters Aboard Geminii Capsule

Tight Quarters Aboard Geminii Capsule