Airborne & Special Operations Museum
Relive History at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Over the past six decades, American airborne and special operations forces have continued to make dramatic and lasting contributions to our national security. Alarmed by newsreels of German parachutists in action, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stirred up interest in the airborne in 1940. Major Bill Lee was assigned the airborne project in June of 1940. In the years that followed, Lee oversaw the creation of the Parachute Test Platoon, the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion, the Army's first tactical airborne unit, and subsequent developments leading to the formation of the first airborne divisions, including Fort Bragg's famous 82nd Airborne Division. Special operations' roots lie within the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) formed under General William "Wild Bill" Donovan in 1942. A great percentage of the soldiers in the OSS came from among Armrica's first parachute units. For nearly 60 years, airborne and special operations soldiers have worked together to ensure victory on the battlefield. These soldiers share common traditions of courage, sacrifice and victory.
Virtually all aspects of this unique sector of our armed forces are explored at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. The moving history of those who jump into battle is captured through dramatic exhibits, interactive displays and high-tech productions. The travel through time reveals tales of valor and victory, humor and hardship, death and sacrifice, The museum features scores of combat missions, displays, numerous uniforms and weapons, and explores airborne traditions and customs.
As visitors walk into the lobby, they look up five stories at two fully deployed parachutes. a T-6 parachute as used in WWII and a modern MC-4 attached to a special operations soldier in full combat gear. The history of parachute combat unfolds.
A progressive series of large panels each with a single, dramatic photo of an airborne or special operations soldier, each symbolizing specific historical eras, introduces the Main Exhibit Gallery. The transition f rom Test Platoon to Airborne Command is exhibited. Videos include original newsreel footage of the German paratroopers in action reportedly watched by members of the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion.
World War II
Many of the museum's exhibits are dedicated to World War II, when the use of parachute and glider combat units were perfected. Five airborne divisions were created at Fort Bragg during the war: 82nd, 101st, 1lth, 13th and 17th. A campaign map depicts airborne and special operations battles across the globe, from Normandy through the Philippines to Burma. Visitors experience the 509th's 1,500 mile flight to North Africa for the Army's first parachute assault as they walk through a section of a C-47 interior. Sound effects duplicate the drone of the engines, and brief, muttered snatches of the trooper's conversations. The devastating effects of combat become real in a full-scale setting of a war-torn French village during the D-Day invasion, keeping alive the memory of one of the greatest victories of WWII. Visitors see an 1lth Airborne briefing hut somewhere in the Philippines and can imagine themselves preparing for combat in the jungle.
Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm
The museum also exhibits airborne and special operations in the era of the Cold War and beyond. Exhibits cover Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. Visitors see an actual UH-1H 'Huey' Helicopter that has just landed in Vietnam -- pilot at the controls, door gunner at the ready and two 173rd Airborne Brigade "Sky Soldiers" on the ground going into action. At the hide site diorama, two special operations team members carefully watch a convoy of Iraqi trucks on a highway in the distance during Operation Desert Storm.
CG-4A Glider: A World Class Exhibit Featuring a Rare World War II Aircraft
For the first time in fifty years, Fort Bragg personnel have reassembled a CG- 4A Glider. After nearly seven years of restoration work and storage, the Airborne & Special Operations Museum features the glider on exhibit. Laister-Kauffman of St. Louis originally built the glider late in WWII.
Half of the airborne units in WWII were glider units. Typically, an airborne division had 6,000 paratroopers and the same number of glider troops. Gliders have not been used by the Army since 1950-51. During WWII, the seemingly fragile contraptions of cloth, plywood and steel tubing carried thousands of soldiers into battle along with jeeps, trailers, howitzers, antitank guns and supplies. In early WWII, there were more gliderists than paratroopers in a division. lronically, it was a more dangerous job with no extra pay. After Normandy, all gliderists received silver wings and $50 a month extra pay.
The museum's glider is one of two that were found by the National Infantry Museum staff in 1993 in a Georgia farm field. They were stored until the Center of Military History could find and fund the restoration work. The US Army Center of Military History created two restorations, one for Fort Benning, Georgia and the other for Fort Bragg, Coleman Brothers in Canaby, Oregon completed the restoration work with help from the Silent Wings Museum.
Reassembly of the museum's glider took four days. A crew from Lockheed Martin, soldiers from the 175th Engineer Company, a crane operator from Material Maintenance Branch and the museum staff all took part. Its diorama setting was completed, the glider's tail blocked up, the nose opened and raised with a World War II jeep placed inside, as if it was being unloaded. Visitors can see the only glider in the world displayed "in action."
Theater and Simulator
At the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, the exhibits are not the only attraction. The Yarborough-Bank Vitascope Theater, with its 30 foot by 40 foot screen, presents a "larger than life' film that places viewers in the middle of modern airborne and special operations action. The Pitch, Roll, and Yaw Vista-Dome Motion Simulator is a "ride" type attraction that gives visitors the experiences of parachuting or flying at tree-top level over rough terrain, while duplicating the exact sensations.
For a fresh appeal to repeat visitors, there is a special exhibit gallery, which will feature three shows a year. From opening day to February 200l, the 'Airborne in Art' display will be in place. America's Army is captured in oil, amlic, pen and ink in a mixed media exhibit showing America's airborne and special operation soldiers in action f rom World War II to today. Soldiers painted most of the art works about their comrades in arms at work protecting America. These artists captured scenes from their personal experiences that could not be captured by film. The art works are on loan from the Army's Central Art Collection held by the U.S. Army Center for Military History.
The Airborne & Special Operations Museum, located in Fayetteville, NC, is part of the U.S. Army Museum System, and the Army's most modern museum. For more information call (910) 483-3003 or visit the website at www.asomf.org.
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