Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wings of Silence

When we were at the Buddy Holly Museum the lady told use to hang onto our receipt and it would get us in the Wings of Silence Museum free for the next 48 hours, so that's where we went today (Wednesday). It's located at the Lubbock Airport, what they did was when Lubbock built a big new terminal and tower on the other side of the airport they gave the old terminal to the National World War II Glider Pilots Association, which turned out pretty good since most of them received their training right here at this airport.

When we got there it was pretty crowded, there was one other couple in the museum. We don't know who set this museum up but they should be training people on how to design museums, for a small local Air museum, Cathy and I rate this as one of the top three that we've been to. From what the lady there told use, when the association started in 1971 there were over 2000 members, now it's down to about 300 and at there last reunion which was held in October there were only 37 members able to attend. There is a bottle of wine on display that is being held for the last two members to break open and have a drink to all the other members who have “Gone West”.

We started with a 15 minute film that tells the story of how the Gliders came into the war and the part they played in it. They almost met their end when they were doing a demonstration flight in St Louis and the glider crashed killing the Mayor and several council members of St Louis, but they redeemed themselves at a later demonstration in front of a bunch of military brass. I always knew that they played a big part in D-Day, but here I found out the major role they had in the invasions of Sicily, Holland and Belgium.

The great thing about this type of museum is that all the members have donated items that they kept from the war years, which means you get to see everyday items that would normally not have been saved. My favorite just because it's so unusual in a bicycle, one of the pilots (they were also trained as infantry, since most of the time it was a one way ticket) commandeered a bicycle from a captured German courier which he used for his transportation, some how he got the bicycle back to the states and it's now on display in the museum.

 The center piece of the museum is a fully restored CG-4A glider, they found this glider sitting on top of a tire store in Fresno, California, it had been purchased as army surplus after the war and put there for advertising. They purchased  and restored it to flight status, probably 85% of the aircraft is wood,plywood and canvas making them very light and cheap to build. Out front of the museum is a restored C-47 which was used to tow up to three gliders to there location before cutting them loose. There is another video of about 15 minutes that shows a glider landing with supplies where another aircraft would not be able to land. Then it shows how they set up a sling so that the tow plane could come back, drop a hook to grab the sling and tow the glider out with the wounded.

And yet still another video display lets you pick from one or all eight video interviews with glider pilots telling their stories of what happened to them when landing in the various war zones. They say that the “G” on their wings stands for Guts, which I would agree but after seeing these interviews I have to say that they all had a fantastic sense of humor, the stories they told had us laughing like crazy people. We did find out that at the last reunion that they did video interviews with all 37 pilots that were in attendance and are going to produce a DVD, they didn't know when it will be ready for sale but I'm going to keep an eye on the web page for it.

The entire cockpit of the glider lifted up and locked in place so they could unload jeeps and other supplies.

Inside view of the flight controls.

Sometimes the field that they had to land in were so small that they looked for trees to crash the wings into to slow them down.

Once again we were pleasantly surprised, we had figured about 30-45 minutes here and ended up spending close to two hours. If you are in the area and have the time this is a great place to spend a few hours learning about some more amazing Americans.

It's sad to think that in the near future that bottle of wine is going to be opened and this will become a historic museum of all the men who have “Gone West”

1 comment:

Jim and Sandie said...

I am definitely glad I found your blog because these are the kinds of places I love to visit. Not necessarily the big known ones but the little known museums and places that are so full of our history.