Visiting the National Museum of WWII Aviation without my wife was a bizarre experience. She’s the one who’s a WWII aficionado, the one who aced history classes left and right, the one with the PoliSci degree, and the one who doesn’t need a tour guide through museums like this. While she spent another Colorado Springs morning fulfilling the company business obligations that made this trip possible, I did the best I could to take photos and notes of what she was missing. Maybe she already knows it all, but if I could bring her just one new trivia tidbit, then this tourist’s mission was a success.
Last July my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the National World War II Museum in scenic New Orleans, Louisiana. Anne is the big, big WWII buff in the family, but I enjoyed myself well enough to devote four chapters to it in our nearly completed July 2015 road trip series (here, here, here, and especially here). Four months later, I was surprised to discover Colorado Springs has a place that’s the perfect sequel — the National Museum of WWII Aviation.
I previously posted about my Day Five visit later that evening from the hotel and used up most of my intro material in that one sitting. The single plane pictured in that entry, their F7F Tigercat, was hardly the only aircraft on the premises. The museum is 30% display cases and 70% actual war planes in various states of disrepair, restoration, and flight capability. Tonight’s presentation, then: another batch of World War II fighter planes to go with our July set.
MCC readers may recall my wife Anne and I visited the National WWII Museum as part of our 2015 road trip to New Orleans back in July. When I researched possible stops for this week’s trip to Colorado Springs, I was surprised to find they have a logical companion attraction, the National Museum of WWII Aviation. The latter isn’t owned by the same people, hasn’t been given the same official accreditation, and definitely doesn’t have the same ginormous funding, but it serves as a local hands-on educational center for students and aficionados specifically interested in World War II air combat history. Like the National WWII Museum’s Boeing Center, this one boasts its own collection of vintage WWII planes in various states of flight readiness. Unlike its rival, this one isn’t afraid to get into the nitty-gritty of engine design, aviation mechanics, comparison/contrast studies with Axis aircraft, carburetor logistics, and related vocabulary such as “pitch” and “ailerons” and “sorties”. But the important thing is you still get to look at real planes.
Pictured above is their F7F Tigercat, one of the largest intact planes on site. This particular model wasn’t deemed ready for war use until August 1945, by which time the Allies had everything pretty much under control. The Tigercat came in handy years later as a night-flying option during the Korean War. Its development occurred during WWII, but it just missed out on any real action against Nazis or Zeros. It wasn’t the Tigercat’s fault that it couldn’t be there.
Anne, major WWII history buff that she is, might’ve appreciated the museum more than I did, if only she could’ve had that chance in person.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Not every activity they offer involves artifacts or invites photography. For a few dollars more, guests can visit the Solomon Victory Theater and catch an exclusive viewing of Beyond All Boundaries, a 48-minute “4-D” experience designed to be thoroughly incompatible with home video.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum. Of all the buildings in the complex, the tallest was the most fascinating and contained the largest objects of all: half a dozen military airplanes suspended in midair.
(See that yellow-and-orange dot in the faraway window that kinda looks like a Ms. Pac-Man fruit? That’s my lovely wife.)
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: our road trip to New Orleans continued as my wife and I spent much of Day 3 touring the National WWII Museum — four super-sized buildings and one smaller, locked gallery used for restoration work. With all that square footage and so many high ceilings, the Museum has plenty of space to display the largest wartime souvenirs: the vehicles that men drove into combat.
Considering recent headlines, maybe I picked the wrong week to share photos of guns. Or the perfect week, if you’re on the other side. Blame World War II for the wide selection here.
When I first suggested driving to New Orleans for this year’s road trip, my wife was hesitant because most online tourism resources summed up the general ambiance as HERE THERE BE MANIACS. No matter where you stay, how brightly the sun shines, how large your group is, or how tall and muscular you are, message boards and review sites and travel books and Fodor’s agree sooner or later a tag team of America’s Most Wanted will come gunning for you.
Then we found out New Orleans is the home of the National WWII Museum. Not a WWII museum — the National WWII Museum, as duly designated by Congress in 2003. Anne knows stuff about WWII. Longtime MCC readers might recall the story of how we first met:
[Anne had] been a WWII buff for years, and read extensively about Germany in general and Hitler in particular. I still remember the time when the teacher (one Frau Schmitz by name) basically turned the class over to Anne and let her give us a speech about Hitler. Anne proceeded to do so…with no notes, and no real preparation beforehand. As I recall, her extemporaneous speech filled two solid class periods over two days — roughly 100 minutes total — with what she knew about Hitler before Frau Schmitz finally stepped in and resumed teaching.
She’s always up for learning more about WWII, above and beyond what she’s already accumulated over the course of decades. When she learned the National WWII Museum was in New Orleans…well. Murderers, schmurderers.
World War II dramas win awards. Biopics win awards. Unhappy endings win awards. Films released by the Weinstein Company win awards. Films with Benedict Cumberbatch in them get nominations, and maybe the occasional award for the people around him. For now. So why not toss all those ingredients into a moviemaking mixer and watch the resulting casserole win the big awards bake-off?
Thus did my annual Oscarquest continue with The Imitation Game, in which The Cumberbatch takes a break from playing licensed characters to try out a historical figure instead, as he did in The Fifth Estate except farther from the present and without changing hair color this time. If this pays off and kicks off a lifetime of nonstop peer recognition, maybe someday he’ll have half as many nominations as Meryl Streep does. The internet can dream!