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McMinnville Favorites: 11 reviews and 16 photos
Circa 1943 Instrument Trainer
Fondest memory: This circa 1943 instrument trainer is displayed at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. In an age of high-tech aviation simulators, it is had to imagine this device being used to train military pilots. Yet the museum affords us a brief return to a simpler, perhaps more romantic, era of aviation.
Avenger Torpedo Bomber
Fondest memory: A rare flyable Avenger World War II torpedo bomber is kept by the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. This was a carrier based American bomber. The crews of these airplanes had to fly in low and release a torpedo at close range at enemy ships. This involved getting past any enemy fighters, and then exposing themselves at point blank range of the anti-aircraft fire of their target and her escorts before releasing their torpedo. It was a dangerous business.
By the end of the war, Avengers had sunk over 60 enemy ships. Avengers participated in the destruction of the world’s largest battleship, the Yamato. This museum's Avenger served the United States Navy from 1945 to 1956.
Fondest memory: A sleek, twin engine P-38 Lightning resides within the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. This World War II era aircraft was the Army's first fighter to achieve a speed greater than 400 miles per hour. Fast and powerful, a Lightning could deliver a potent punch to an opposing aircraft. This durable airplane, with its "extra" engine, could return home after taking a beating that would have brought down most of its contemporaries. This airplane was big for a fighter of its era, and it relied upon its speed and heavy firepower when in a fight. It was used in both Europe and the Pacific.
America's top ace, Major Richard Bong, who scored forty victories, flew P-38s.
During the war the Americans had cracked the code used in Japanese radio transmissions. It was learned that Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, who commanded Japanese operations and had also planned the attack on Pearl Harbor, would fly within the reach of P-38s. A squadron was sent to get him. They destroyed the transports containing Admiral Yamamoto and his staff.
Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was sent to the South Pacific as an advisor during the war. At that time American pilots had difficulty achieving good range with their P-38s. Lindbergh analyzed the situation. Using his experience from his first solo transatlantic flight, he developed techniques to conserve fuel in route to and from the destinations. This greatly enhanced the range of the P-38s. Lindbergh was under strict instructions not to fly on any combat missions. The United States did want any political fall out from losing a national hero. Lindbergh disregarded the directive and flew a combat mission in a P-38 and ended up shooting down a Japanese airplane. He was quickly withdrawn back to the United States.
This unique looking aircraft was the primary fighter used during the D-Day invasion, since its distinctive double fuselage aided against misidentification by Allied naval gunners of the 5,000 ship armada.
De Havilland D.H.-100 Vampire Mk.52
Fondest memory: The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum has a flyable British de Havilland D.H.-100 Vampire Mk.52. This is one of the first models of production jet aircraft. It was the second to jet fighter to join the Royal Air Force (RAF), the first being the Gloster Meteor. The production aircraft first flew in April 1945. Although the RAF eagerly took it into service, the jet was still being developed the end of the Second World War, and consequently the Vampire did not see service. Once operational, it served with the RAF until 1955.
Note the other exhibits in the background of the photo. A DC-3, early airliner, is at the left rear. Some of the museum's helicopters are shown. The massive wing of the Spruce Goose is overhead.
Fondest memory: An American P-40 is displayed at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. P-40s were the standard United States Army Air Corps fighter at the beginning of the Second World War. The P-40 was used in almost every theater of action. It was even used by the American Volunteer Group in China known as the Flying Tigers. The museum's aircraft bears the paint scheme of the Flying Tigers.
The P-40 was virtually obsolete at the outbreak of the war, yet it was what was available. It was usually outperformed by opposing fighters. However, the airplane was rugged. It became regarded as the best of the second best.
Corsair Front View
Fondest memory: An airworthy Corsair, with its distinctive bent wing, is on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The Corsair was an American fighter used by the Marine Corps and Navy Pilots during World War II. This fast, rugged, and maneuverable airplane could easily tangle with the best planes Japan had to offer. The Corsair, along with the Hellcat, played a significant role in the war. Corsairs also saw action during the Korean War.
The Corsair was the type of aircraft flown by decorated Marine ace Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, when he commanded the Marine 214th Fighter Squadron. The nickname "Pappy" was due to his being over 30, which was old at the time for a fighter pilot. As a true leader, Boyington would always fly the oldest Corsair on the runway, leaving the newer ones for his men. Boyington was credited with shooting down over 20 enemy planes. (Some of his kills were with the famed Flying Tigers, who served in China as volunteers prior to the United States' entry into the war.) In January of 1944, Boyington was shot down and captured by the Japanese. He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner and living under atrocious conditions.
A highly fictionalized 1970s television series was based upon the exploits of Boyington and the 214th Fighter Squadron. This was "Baa Baa Black Sheep" (and was latter renamed "Black Sheep Squadron"). Actor Robert Conrad stared as Pappy Boyington. Corsairs were used in the filming of this series.
B-17 Flying Fortress
Favorite thing: A B-17 Flying Fortress is on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The rugged B-17 was an American heavy bomber during World War II. The Flying Fortress got its name from the amount of armaments defending the aircraft. B-17s served in both Europe and the Pacific. They are best known for the daylight raids over Germany and France.
American flight crews only needed to fly 25 missions before they could return home. This might sound like a good deal until one realized that the bomber squadrons were losing about 15 percent of their planes on each mission. With 25 missions needed to go home, the odds of getting home were actually unfavorable. The lower ball turret gunner was an especially dangerous position, as he was exposed in the glass ball on the underside of the aircraft for an entire mission. Unfortunately for flight crews, the magic number of missions flown was increased later in the war, after the threat of German fighters was significantly reduced. The air force flight crews flying heavy bombers suffered the highest percentage of their numbers killed as any of the branches of the United States armed forces during the war.
Fondest memory: B-17s have been featured in many films. The 1990 film "Memphis Bell" was loosely based upon the first B-17 flight crew to survive all 25 missions. The 1949 film "Twelve O'Clock High" and the 1960s television series of the same name featured this aircraft. The 1970 film "Tora! Tora! Tora!" showed a B-17 landing without one wheel during the Japanese attack.
After the war most of these big sturdy airplanes were scrapped. Of the 12,700 built, only a few remain. Parts for the handful B-17s still flying are extremely rare. The museum's airplane was built in 1945 and left for the Pacific a month before the war ended. It later served in a firefighting role and was used to develop the skyhook, where a person or cargo could be retrieved by the airplane without landing. The museum's B-17 demonstrated this technique in the 1965 James Bond film, "Thunderball".
A Gooney Bird used in the D-Day Invasion
Fondest memory: The C-47 Dakota is the military variant of the successful DC-3 airliner. The C-47 became the workhorse transport aircraft of the United States during the Second World War. Many of these rugged, reliable airplanes are still in service today throughout the world. Most Allied soldiers knew this airplane by its nickname, the Gooney Bird.
C-47's were also used to drop Allied paratroopers behind enemy lines. The particular airplane displayed in the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum was used to transport paratroopers in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Note the three white stripes on the airplane's wings. All aircraft participating in the invasion were given the stripes to help the massive Allied armada avoid accidently shooting at their own planes.
The Gooney Bird on display holds special historical significance since it flew paratroopers of the U. S. 101st Airborne Division to battle during the D-Day Invasion. Film and history enthusiasts would recognize the 101st Division as the division of Easy (E) Company of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment that was immortalized in the 2001 mini series "Band of Brothers", as well as the non-fiction book of the same name. At the end of the first episode of "Band of Brother", Lieutenant Winters sat looking out the open door of a transport. His plane was part of a massive fleet of transport aircraft. The Dakota is type of airplane depicted in scene in which Lt. Winters was flying.
SR-71 Blackbird (front view)
Fondest memory: The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum has a SR-71 Blackbird on display. The high flying Blackbird is a product of the Cold War. It was a reconnaissance aircraft and holds the record for both the highest flying and fasted aircraft ever flown (excepting spacecraft). Its speed could exceed 2,000 miles per hour and it could climb above 85,000 feet. The Blackbird displayed at museum resides below the wing of Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose. At 107 feet long, even the Blackbird is dwarfed by the wooden Spruce Goose.
The Blackbird was manufactured by Lockheed and first flew in 1966. The Air Force retired them in 1990, although a few Blackbirds received funding from Congress for some additional flights. The museum’s Blackbird flew for NASA as part of the reactivation program in 1995 and 1996, before it was again retired. It is on long-term loan from the United States Air Force Museum. It was a treat to see this rare, unique, and formerly top secrete aircraft.
The Spruce Goose
Favorite thing: During World War II, the United Sates was suffering losses of her shipping due to German U-boat attacks. American industrialist Henry Kaiser, famed builder of the "Liberty Ships", contacted Howard Hughes with an idea of building a fleet of large flying transports that could avoid the deadly U-boats. Hughes by this time was already an accomplished aviator, aircraft designer, and businessman. Hughes joint ventured with Kaiser, but the later withdrew from the project in 1944. Hughes pushed forward on his own.
The government placed restrictions that the airplane could not be made of materials critical to the war effort, like steel and aluminum. So wood was chosen as the primary material for the giant airplane that could carry as many as 750 soldiers. A prototype was constructed and named the Hughes Flying Boat H-4, aka the Spruce Goose.
The project was over the government's budget so Hughes sunk seven million dollars of his own money to keep the project going. The U.S. Senate formed an investigation committee to probe alleged misappropriation of funds. The investigation eventually exonerated Hughes of any alleged wrongdoing.
After being interrogated by the Senate, Hughes ordered the seaplane readied for taxi tests. Before a crowd of observers, on the third taxi run, Hughes lifted up the seaplane and demonstrated that the big bird could indeed fly. After its sole flight, the plane was placed in a special hanger and maintained in flight ready condition for the next 33 years.
The Spruce Goose is the largest wood aircraft ever flown. It dominates the interior of the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. At the museum, many historic aircraft lie under its wings and help to demonstrate the size of this giant airplane.
The historic events surrounding the Spruce Goose were depicted in the 2004 film, the "Aviator".
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