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Director's Update: Summer 2010

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles D. Metcalf, Director
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
If you visit the museum this summer, you'll notice a big difference in the Modern Flight Gallery. We've finished a complete renovation of our Korean War exhibit area, just in time to kick off the 60th anniversary of that war.

On June 24, we hosted hundreds of Korean War veterans and their guests during a "Dinner Under the Wings" so they could be on hand as we unveiled the new 60,000-square-foot exhibit. What a satisfaction it was to see their enjoyment as they shared their aircraft and their stories with family and friends. The next evening, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base honored these veterans once again during the sixth annual Freedom's Call Military Tattoo. More than 75,000 people crowded the museum's back field during the celebration, which included live performances by .38 Special and the U.S. Air Force Band of Flight and a spectacular fireworks display.

The new Korean War exhibit not only honors our veterans, but it also showcases a total effort by the museum staff to pull together such an incredible exhibit. In fact, this is the largest single exhibit to open at the museum - even bigger than last year's Warrior Airmen exhibit.

Of particular note is the assistance we've received from our student hires. This program, which has gained momentum in our Exhibits and Restoration Divisions over the past year, allows students to get hands-on experience in what they are learning in their classes. Some of the students will go on to fill position vacancies here at the museum. These students have worked alongside the regular staff on nearly every aspect of the Korean War exhibit, including wall construction, audiovisual exhibit production, lighting design, and some really interesting projects such as figuring out how to add "snow" to the Tactical Air Control diorama. One student even took on the task of router work for the case furniture, saving about 50 percent of time.

So what have all of these staff members been adding to the gallery over these past months?

The exhibit area has plenty of aircraft - 14 in all, including the F-86 Sabre and MiG-15, the two main adversaries of the Korean War. Although you might have seen most of these aircraft during previous visits to the museum, you'll notice a few changes. Our restoration staff repainted the F-84 to tell the story of Col. Joseph Davis Jr., who led an important strike on July 27, 1953, the last day of the war. You may recall reading the background of his aircraft, The Four Queens, in the spring issue of the Journal. We've also added a different F-82 Twin Mustang to the gallery. Japan-based F-82s were among the first USAF aircraft to operate over Korea. On June 27, 1950, all-weather F-82Gs shot down the first three North Korean airplanes destroyed by U.S. forces. (The museum's other F-82, Betty-Jo, has moved to the Cold War Gallery.)

In addition to the hardware, you'll also get the personal accounts of Airmen who served during the "Forgotten War." You'll learn the stories behind the some of the first jet aces as well as the Air Force's four Medal of Honor recipients - Maj. Louis J. Sebille, Capt. John S. Walmsley Jr., Lt. Col. George A. Davis Jr. and Maj. Charles J. Loring Jr. Find out how Air Force Reservists and Air National Guardsmen were mobilized to meet the communist threat, and learn how the 235 Airmen captured during the Korean War were treated as prisoners of war.

Not only will these stories be told using traditional sign text, we're also incorporating some new technology into this exhibit. As you enter, you'll meet a lifelike mannequin dressed as a fighter pilot, and you'll have the opportunity to follow the chronology of the Korean War through an interactive timeline or watch a video that gives a broad overview of the war in less than a minute! Just around the corner, you can listen to Korean War aces as they share their thoughts about the war. And as you approach the B-29 walk-through fuselage, you'll be able to use an interactive touch screen to learn more about crew positions in a B-29 and watch a video about the Tarzon guided bomb - right next to an example of the 12,000-pound bomb on display.

We are proud of the work that went into this exhibit in honor of those heroes who served during the Korean War, and we hope you are able to plan a trip to see this impressive new exhibit soon.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of Friends Journal. To receive the Journal and other benefits, become a member of the Air Force Museum Foundation.