With Memorial Day just a few days away many are beginning to reflect on the veterans who made sacrifices, often times with their lives, to defend the country's freedom. The Dover Air Force Base Air Mobility Command Museum is installing a new exhibit to pay tribute to those military officers and to preserve history of that era.
The museum is soon to host an exhibit that centers around the Vietnam War, focusing specifically on the airlift component of the war.
"Vietnam was a significant coming of age story for airlift," said Mike Leister, director of the Air Mobility Command Museum. "It was the first major airlift where we used jet aircraft. It was the transition from propeller to jet air craft."
Airlift was the Command of the Air Force that was responsible for moving supplies and personnel into Vietnam.
"Vietnam was half a world away," said Leister "It was the largest, long distance continual airlift we did for many, many years. It showed that we could supply our military via air. If somebody ordered something, two days later they would have something to fulfill their need."
Carl Butterworth, a volunteer at the AMC Museum, served in Vietnam with both the Air Force and the National Guard. He flew back and forth from the U.S. to Vietnam from 1965 to the early '70s.
"We would land in Vietnam, load off our cargo and passengers and load on any equipment to take it back to Japan or Hawaii or California for repairs," Butterworth said. "We got in as quickly as possible and we got out as quickly as possible. We got hit on two missions and we didn't even know it until we landed."
Photographs of airlift planes and airlift crews will make up the bulk of the exhibit, but the museum also has artifacts to display. These artifacts were donated by local Vietnam vets, Leister said.
"We have a Vietnamese pith helmet. It looks like an explorer's helmet, the light weight tan kind," he said. "The Vietcong wore them. We have one decorated with pin prick artwork. We also have some cross bows built by guard tribesmen and a handmade grenade made by the North Vietnamese Army."
The exhibit will be housed in an installation designed to look like the buildings that military operations in Vietnam, called a hooch.
"It looks like a basic hut with canvas screens and ship lap siding," Leister said. "It looks like a roughly built building. Visitors will enter the room to see the exhibit and a flat screen TV will be on the outside displaying pictures of planes."
The exhibit is the museum's way of trying to honor the veterans from that era.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're trying to put this up to honor their service, to recognize it and to make people aware of it," Leister said.
Leister is also hoping that the public can take something away from the exhibit.
"I hope they get a better understanding of the portion of the Vietnam War that related to how troops were supplied," he said. "We are trying to show how our military supported the war fighter that was in a very foreign land, with no ready support from local area. Support had to be shipped in across the sea and our soldiers didn't need anything unless they needed it right away. "
Other museum staff members are hoping that the exhibit will paint a picture of our nation's history. "History is something we should all know," said Bill Van Ness, a volunteer at the AMC Museum. "Vietnam is something that has changed our nation. Every time you have a war it changes the culture. It's very important for people to understand, that's who we are as Americans. That's our history."
The Air Mobility Command Museum is still searching for photos from the Vietnam era with an airlift theme, as well as Vietnam era artifacts. The exhibit will be complete and ready for viewing within 60 days, Leister said.