If you are ever near Dayton, Ohio, visit the Air Force Museum – something you have to see to appreciate (and it is free). Three humongous hangars filled with aircraft from the Wright Brothers through Apollo rockets. Grouped in chronological order, a visitor is led through World War I vintage aircraft, then planes from the Second World War (including the development of jet engines), then jets from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.
The most impressive hangar contained rockets used to propel astronauts into space – a group of about a dozen stacked side-by-side. Just outside, you can have a peek into a Mercury capsule (the one used by Alan Shepard to be the first man in space), or almost touch the Apollo 15 capsule that circled the moon.
A replica of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (‘Fat Boy’) sits next to the actual bomber (‘Bockscar’) that dropped the same on Nagasaki. A B2 Stealth bomber, draped in black anti-radar garb, stares menacingly across the tarmac, while a giant B29 Superfortress, it’s wingspan dwarfing the other aircraft, fills your field of vision.
Many of these historic aircraft have videos – some show the particular aircraft in dogfights, bombing runs, or simply being built. I’m sure there are quite a few World War II pilots who love to come here and visit the planes they flew during these campaigns. What a nostalgic trip this must be for them.
You could spend a week here reading about each airplane – or the flying aces that piloted them, or the Berlin airlift, the Doolittle raids over Tokyo, Bob Hope’s visits with the troops, POW’s in Vietnam – there is a ton of history in this museum. We were here four hours and it was thoroughly entertaining. Next time you are in Dayton, make a detour and visit this fantastic museum, and the world’s first airport right next door.