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Air Force museum ‘a proud moment for the United States’

President Nixon dedicated Air Force Museum

A parade of historic aircraft closed down local roadways in 1970 as the caravan rolled toward its new home, the United States Air Force Museum.

The original museum, now called the National Museum of the United States Air Force, was founded at McCook Field, located north of downtown Dayton, in 1923. The museum moved to Patterson Field in 1927 where the winged artifacts were displayed outdoors.


The transfer of historic aircraft from Patterson Field to the new $6 million museum at Wright Field began in batches starting with smaller planes in the fall of 1970.


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The Black Widow night fighter, a Republic F-84 Thunderjet and a North American F-100 Super Saber jet fighter were among the first planes towed along 7 miles of deserted State Route 444 to the new museum.

The “circus parade,” as it was described in a Dayton Daily News article, slowed after a Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star jet trainer rubbed its right wing tip along the railing of a bridge over the Mad River.

“Five men climbed out on the left wing to raise the right wingtip free of the bridge rail, then rode the wing the rest of the way across the bridge to keep it free,” the story detailed.

Highway signs and signal lights were taken down, tree limbs cut and chain link fences were “peeled back” to make room for the larger airplanes’ sprawling wing spans.

The 100-ton, 196-foot long North American XB-70 Valkyrie, which flew at speeds up to 2,000 miles per hour, brought up the rear of the convoy.

Despite being stripped of six engines, an air conditioner, seven tons of lead ballasts, safety plates, doors and a 3,000 pound stabilizer, the futuristic aircraft still weighed 147,000 pounds.

“It reminds me of a praying mantis,” Robert Treiner, deputy director of materiel, said at the time.

The 226,000 square foot museum was dedicated the following year.

President Richard M. Nixon flew in on his presidential jet, the Spirit of ’76, to dedicate the museum Sept. 3, 1971.

Clouds and poor visibility forced the president’s plane to land at Patterson Field where he met Ohio Gov. John Gilligan and the two rode together in a motorcade to the new museum.

Special guests for the ceremony included World War I fighter ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker and Apollo II astronaut Col. Michael Collins.

A crowd estimated at more than 12,000 were entertained before Nixon’s arrival by the Air Force band, the Miller Black Hawks and the National Cash Register Co. Youth Band.

“America has been first in aviation, first in the exploration of space and in the exploration of the air and this has been true since the year 1903,” Nixon told the audience as he spoke in front of a back drop of airplanes.

The dedication was “a proud moment for the United States,” he said. “It should be a particularly proud moment for the people of Dayton and for those who contributed to make it possible for this museum to be erected.”

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