New Air Force Museum exhibit celebrates 75 years of technical, social changes

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force opened a new temporary exhibit Thursday May 19, 2022 that celebrates 75 years of technical, military and social milestones in Air Force history. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force opened a new temporary exhibit Thursday May 19, 2022 that celebrates 75 years of technical, military and social milestones in Air Force history. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

A new temporary exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is highlighting technical, military and social milestones in Air Force history, as the service approaches its official 75th birthday on Sept. 18 this year.

In a sense, the entire museum testifies to 75 years and more of American air power, stretching all the way back to the 1907 formation of the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

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But this new exhibit examines social progress and other milestones, highlighting (among many others) former Tuskegee Airman Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., who became the first Black American to attain the rank of four-star general, and Technical Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who in the mid-1970s became the first active-duty Airman to publicly declare his homosexuality.

There is also an examination of how the Air Force incorporated the microchip in its electronics, the creation of the Space Force, the first military airplane (purchased from the Wright Brothers in 1909) and much more.

“It’s a little bit of a different flavor than what we usually do,” said Doug Lantry, museum historian. “It’s not focused on combat achievements or war. It’s focused on innovation and growth and inclusion and all the remarkable things that the Air Force has achieved technologically and culturally over more than seven decades of tremendous growth.”

Deployed as well are six videos and 30 photos, with exhibits on the oxygen mask, LASERs, the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a lot more.

And of course, the museum has nearly 400 aerospace vehicles across four hangars, and plenty of outdoor exhibits.

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A previous aerial view of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum collects, researches, conserves, interprets and presents the Air Force's history, heritage and traditions - as well as today's mission to fly, fight and win in Air, Space and Cyberspace - to a global audience through engaging exhibits, educational outreach, special programs, and the stewardship of the national historic collection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Copes)

A previous aerial view of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum collects, researches, conserves, interprets and presents the Air Force's history, heritage and traditions - as well as today's mission to fly, fight and win in Air, Space and Cyberspace - to a global audience through engaging exhibits, educational outreach, special programs, and the stewardship of the national historic collection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Copes)

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A previous aerial view of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The museum collects, researches, conserves, interprets and presents the Air Force's history, heritage and traditions - as well as today's mission to fly, fight and win in Air, Space and Cyberspace - to a global audience through engaging exhibits, educational outreach, special programs, and the stewardship of the national historic collection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Copes)

“Plan to spend a day or two, and wear comfortable shoes, because it’s a long walk,” Lantry advised.

This free exhibit will be on display in the museum’s Cold War Art Gallery through September.

The entrance to the museum is on Springfield Street at gate 28B, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Riverside. The museum’s address is 1100 Spaatz Street.

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