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Strategic Air and Space Museum


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Strategic Air and Space Museum


28210 West Park Highway


Ashland, NE 68003


p. 402.944.3100


f. 402.944.3160






Located minutes from Omaha or Lincoln on Interstate 80, Exit #426


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Sometimes we feel a personal connection to a museum.


Those of us living in Eastern Nebraska are fortunate to have the Strategic Air and Space Museum within easy driving distance.


It is of course of local interest, as previously this was the collection of the Strategic Aerospace Museum at Offutt AFB.


But for me, the aircraft and the events on exhibit are straight out of my lifetime.


When I was young, the aircraft that you saw on the TV, movies and recruiting posters were chrome silver, with bright color markings, and that large blue and white star with the red bars. It was the Cold War, which we were clearly winning because we had fast, record breaking aircraft and highly trained crews that could be airborne seemingly within seconds to counter any threat to the nation.


In my hometown outside of Philadelphia, about a third of the parents all seemed to work for the aerospace industry. They were busily buiding aircraft, missiles, helicopters and spacecraft that not only kept the country safe but even took us to the moon and back! And every year there was something new, different and exciting... a quantum leap over what had prevously been the fastest and the best. There was nothing our country could not do!


And yet, even first graders as first graders we understood the threat of nuclear war. That's because we all took part in those ridiculous "duck and cover" drills, believing our teacher that hiding under a wooden desk with a white sheet would somehow protect us from a multi megaton airburst, the heat blast and the ensuing radiation. Even when they moved us to shelter underneath the steel staircase in the basement, which seemed a little more plausible to someone who had read about the London Blitz, it was hardly comforting. It was during one of these drills I swore if it happened for real I was going to run home while the sirens were wailing to spend my final moments with my family. In retrospect, these were rather heavy thoughts for a kid in grade school.


But I still took pride... my Dad worked for General Electric's Missile and Space Division! Short of working directly for the USAF or NASA, how cool was that!


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Even with the creeping changes that came from the Vietnam War could not shake a young boy's faith in the Air Force and our strategic defenses.


For all the Great Power confrontations that came and went, wise men on both sides had enough sense to back us away from nuclear Armageddon.


But things did change. The airplanes that showed up at the local airshows back at Willow Grove NAS now had camouflage covering all that silver metal. The proud national emblem shrank, and then was subdued. The proud bombers that had protected us from the Soviets were now flying conventional bombing missions over places whose names we could not pronounce.


And there were losses.


It was a shock to me as a teenager that the B-52's that shielded our country could be shot down over what had been rated as a third world country. I still have copies of the news articles that I used for typing practice from the Christmas bombing campaign. As part of my homework, I dutifully copied them despite the shock that every day another aircraft had gone down.


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But Vietnam passed into history. Other missions came and went where America flexed its muscles with the aircraft of the Strategic Air Command.


The Cold War itself ended.


Bombers were dismantled, missiles removed from their holes in the ground. The red phones were disconnected, and SAC stood down.


One could live today and not know that any of it ever happened.


And that is precisely the value of this museum. It brings to life the race in technology, the countless hours of being on watch and on guard. It also touches on the peaceful spin offs that led to the exploration of space.


From what I understand many of these aircraft were on outside display for years. Anyone who has experienced winter in Nebraska can tell you that it ravages both man and machine. Now the collection is in a modern, state of the art indoor space.


As you wil see many of the larger aircraft are in a conservation state rather than a full restoration. But given their rarity, you have to begin somewhere.


Many people transit Nebraska on I-80 going across country from one place to another. This is a stop that is worth 2 to 4 hours of your time. It is a fitting monument to the days we referred to as the Atomic Age, the Jet Age, and ultimately the Space Age. I hope you enjoy the following photos.


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The museum features two main hangers and a conservation hanger.


Depending on the route that you take, you can walk through a chronological history of America's bombing and strategic forces beginning with WWII.


Pilot training is highlighted by this Link Trainer, as well as other instrument trainers on display.


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The Doolittle Raid is of special signficance, as the surviving members of the mission have met over the years to toast their comrades.


This B-25 is the spitting image of one of the aircraft used on the raid.



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There are additional exhibits showing memorabilia from the raid, including a reproduction of the crude bombsite that was fabricated when the highly classified Norden sights were pulled from the aircraft.






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The museum's pride and joy is this restored B-17, looking every bit as if it were ready to take off on a mission over Europe.







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A C-47 awaits the orders to launch the D-Day invasion. Models augment the exhibits of the full sized aircraft, with display cases showing every major flying type of WWII.






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Paintings also add to the atmosphere of the exhibit, this one from an area dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen.


The museum does own a B-29, which I was able to walk around during my very first visit. Since then, it has been undergoing a very long and detailed restoration.



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The B-29 has a special meaning to Omaha, as both it and the B-26 were manufactured at the huge Martin plant located at what is now Offutt AFB.


During WWII there was a genuine fear that the Japanese or Germans would be able to attack aircraft plants located on the coasts. A number of them were moved beyond reach to the midwest.


Omaha was a natural selection. The railroads provided a means for bringing in parts and assemblies, and also provided a technological base for providing workers for the new plant.


Workers came from as far away as Des Moines seeking good pay in skilled jobs. However, many also came out of a sense of patriotism and pride in helping the war effort.





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The museum features a fully detailed model of the plant based on the original blueprints. It's interesting to trace how the different parts flow together to form a complete aircraft.


"The Glenn L. Martin Company assembly plant and modification center near Omaha was an important part of Nebraska's contribution to America's World War II effort. Over 1500 B-26 Marauder medium bombers and more than 500 B-29 Superfortresses were produced at the Martin bomber plant. On the cutting edge of technology at the time, the B-29 had a pressurized crew compartment, computerized defensive weapons system, and advanced radar for bombing and navigation.


By 1945 a total of 13,217 persons were at work — 11,019 in the main production area and 2,198 in the modification center. Included were 5,306 women and 765 African-Americans. The work force included 682 inspectors, and 127 supervisors and technicians."




The huge building has survived, and now provides a number of base services on Offutt AFB.






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In addition to the aircraft and uniforms, there are other artifacts from the WWII period, such as this model P-38 made from bullets.


Transitioning to the Post War period, we see an A26 invader. If you look closely, you can see where the gun ports in the nose have been sealed over.




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The jet age soon took hold of the US Air Force from the day it was brought into existance.


This odd looking aircraft is an RB-45. Looking at it you can see the features typical of a WWII bomber... straight wings and tail. But yet it had four jet engines built into the wing structure.


"Arrival of the RB-45s was well timed, as the RB-29s of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron were no longer able to perform with impunity the special missions ordered by Far East Air Force or the targeting and bomb-damage assessment photography desired by its Bomber Command. Eager to maintain its reconnaissance capability in the face of the Soviet-built MiG jets, Bomber Command on January 31, 1951 took control of the RB-45 detachment and attached it to the 91st Squadron. The RB-45 crews managed to outrun and outmaneuver the MiGs for several months. On April 9, 1951, one of the too few RB-45s barely escaped a numerically far superior enemy."




This example was the last RB-45 in service.






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WWII era aircraft continued to serve well into the 1960's. One of the more interesting exhibits is this cut-away B-25, which appears to have been used for training purposes.


One thing this display demonstrates is just how little room there was inside of these aircraft. The pilot and co-pilot must literally have been shoulder to shoulder. It's not all the room that you see in the movies!





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Photographic exhibits supplement the museum... here are some selections on a corner devoted to the Berlin Airlift.



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Propeller driven aircraft just would not leave the bomber fleet quietly...


The biggest item in the museum is this B-36. Of course, with every thing nestled up next to it, it was next to impossible to get a clear photo of the entire aircraft...


You cannot imagine the size of this thing until you have stood next to it. In it's day it was known as the "Aluminum Overcast".


One can only imagine the noise from these turboprops, and then to have them augmented by jet engines as well.





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Propellor driven aircraft filled other roles... such as this HU-16 rescue aircraft. Similar aircraft, painted black, were also used for infiltration missions in North Korea.




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Of course, there were the cargo aircraft as well... The C-119 is a favorite of mine, as they were still flying over my house from Willow Grove in the mid 1960's.


This aircraft has been configured with stetchers, which makes it perfect for Boy Scout sleep overs!





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Serving first as a cargo aircraft, and later as an airborne tanker, the KC-97. This one served with the Nebraska Air National Guard.






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There are jet trainers, fighters and interceptors here as well...


A T-33, typical of those that trained thousands of pilots...




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