5 Air Force Museum exhibits that had a giant impact on history

Looking for something to do with visitors this holiday season?

The National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is one of the top attractions in Ohio, featuring more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles — many rare and one-of-a-kind.

There are too many planes to see in a day, so here are five unique displays you should be sure your guests don’t miss:

1. Boeing VC-137C SAM 26000 

This plane, the nation’s first Air Force One, is the centerpiece of the presidential aircraft collection, and guests are able to walk through it. SAM 26000 (pronounced two-6,000) was used regularly by eight presidents, John F. Kennedy through Bill Clinton, before it was retired in 1998.

It carried Kennedy and his wife to Dallas on the day of his assassination, Nov. 22, 1963. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president aboard it shortly after the assassination, and the aircraft then carried Kennedy's body back to Washington.

» AN AMAZING HISTORY: Dayton’s unique presidential history: What to know about Air Force One

2. Boeing B-29 Superfortress ‘Bockscar’

Called Bockscar, this B-29 dropped the “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the atomic attack against Hiroshima. U.S. Army Air Forces committed the Superfortress to Asia in December 1943 because its great range made it particularly suited for the long over-water flights against the Japanese homeland from bases in China. Bockscar was flown to the museum in 1961 and can be found in the World War II section.

» A SOBERING HISTORY: This Air Force Museum bomber is the most devastating in the building

3. North American XB-70 Valkyrie 

The futuristic XB-70A was originally conceived in the 1950s as a high-altitude, nuclear strike bomber that could fly at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound), and no enemy would have been able to defend against it. However, the expensive B-70 bomber program was canceled in 1961 before any Valkyries had been flown.

The sole surviving XB-70 Valkyrie, displayed in the research and development gallery, was still used to test aerodynamics, propulsion and other characteristics of large supersonic aircraft from 1964 until it came to the museum in 1969.

» A FLASHY HISTORY: Meet the Air Force Museum's supersonic, exotic bomber

4. Lockheed Martin Titan IVB Rocket 

Designed to carry military satellites into space, this was the U.S. Air Force’s largest and most powerful expendable single-use rocket. Titan IVB flew from 1997 to 2005 with all 17 of its launches successful, including sending NASA’s Cassini-Huygens spacecraft to study Saturn and its moon Titan.

It measures 205 feet in length and has to be displayed horizontally, which means visitors can walk under it. It’s the only one of its kind available for viewing, found in the space gallery at the museum.

» A FIERY HISTORY: The towering Titan IV rocket looms over visitors

5. Avro Canada VZ-9AV Avrocar 

The Avrocar was the result of a Canadian effort to develop a supersonic, vertical takeoff and landing fighter-bomber in the early 1950s. Its circular shape gave it the appearance of a flying saucer out of science fiction movies of the period, and it really was an utter fantasy.

The Avrocar never got more than three feet off the ground, and its top speed was 35 mph. It is still cool to look at, though, and is located in the research and development gallery.

» AN ODD HISTORY: Spaceship-like 'Avrocar' among odd aircraft in new museum hangar

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