DAYTON, Ohio -- Visitors check out the “Destruction from High Above: The B-52 Stratofortress in Southeast Asia” exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The floor graphic of three bombs falling from the bomb bay is visible in this photo. (U.S. Air Force photo)
by Sarah Swan
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
8/14/2012 - DAYTON, Ohio -- One of the most powerful weapons and icons during the Southeast Asia War is the centerpiece of an updated exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The "Destruction from High Above: The B-52 Stratofortress in Southeast Asia" exhibit is now open in the museum's Southeast Asia War Gallery.
"The Boeing B-52 is one of those special aircraft that resonates with visitors of all ages," said Dr. Jeff Underwood, museum historian. "It has served with the U.S. Air Force for over half a century, and it will continue serving long into this century."
Although the B-52 was developed to deliver nuclear weapons, its first combat mission took place in 1965 when it dropped conventional bombs on communist forces in South Vietnam. During Operation Arc Light, B-52s bombed enemy targets across South Vietnam and into Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam. Perhaps its best known missions of the war took place in December 1972 during Operation Linebacker II, when B-52 attacks eventually drove the North Vietnamese to successful peace talks.
The B-52D on display at the museum was damaged by a communist SA-2 surface-to-air missile in April 1972, including damage to the skin structure, fuel tank and engines. Details from the original battle damage report are included in the exhibit.
The exhibit is the first in the museum to feature a floor graphic. A composite photograph makes it appear as though three bombs are falling from the B-52's bomb bay, capturing the attention of visitors.
"With each new exhibit, we are always trying to find ways to immerse the visitor," said John Luchin III, exhibit designer. "Being able to walk underneath the B-52 and over a large-scale mural of bombs falling from the bomb bay will hopefully spark the imagination of our visitors and add a new dimension to the exhibit."
In addition to viewing the massive aircraft, visitors can see fragments of bombs dropped on North Vietnam during Operation Linebacker II, as well as a .50-caliber machine gun barrel from one of the four guns used by Staff Sgt. Samuel Turner to destroy the first North Vietnamese MiG-21 shot down by a B-52 tail gunner. Also on display are items worn by Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) Capt. Silverio Barroqueiro, one of six crewmembers who successfully ejected from B-52G Brass 02 after it suffered severe damage from surface-to-air missiles in December 1972.
Underwood hopes the B-52 exhibit will inspire future generations.
"The exhibit teaches visitors about the B-52's important role in the Southeast Asia War, the men who flew it in combat, and those who kept it in the air," he said.
The exhibit opened in conjunction with a reunion of the B-52 Stratofortress Association, an organization of more than 900 members that distributes educational and historical information on the B-52 and plans periodic reunions of those who designed, manufactured, maintained and operated the B-52, as well as others with an historical interest in the aircraft.
Museum staff began renovating the Southeast Asia War Gallery in the fall of 2010 in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. Air Force campaign during the Southeast Asia War. Planned in four phases, the renovation's first phase was completed in the spring of 2011, and phase two will be complete later this year. Throughout the renovation, access to aircraft and other exhibits may be temporarily limited.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force is located on Springfield Street, six miles northeast of downtown Dayton. It is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day). Admission and parking are free. For more information about the museum, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.
NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, please contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-3286.
NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, please contact Sarah Swan at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1283.
10/1/2012 12:39:42 AM ET 1983-87 had alot of good times there miss it alot 379th sup 645x0 but did alot of 645x1 have some memorabilia benchstock was the best got to see every spot on base made alot of friends alot of behind the scenes touring lol glad we have a museum can't wait to visit