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Flying through History

Celebrating 40 years of Plattsburgh’s Air Force Base With the push of a button, a klaxon, a sound used to signal pilots to get on their planes and go, would ring loudly throughout the Air Force Base. At the 380th Bomb Wing in Plattsburgh, thousands of pilots were trained daily to fly aircrafts, respond to signals and complete missions. Those 40 years of aviation history can be seen at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum. The Plattsburgh Air Force Base opened in 1955 in response to the looming Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. During this…

Celebrating 40 years of Plattsburgh’s Air Force Base

With the push of a button, a klaxon, a sound used to signal pilots to get on their planes and go, would ring loudly throughout the Air Force Base. At the 380th Bomb Wing in Plattsburgh, thousands of pilots were trained daily to fly aircrafts, respond to signals and complete missions. Those 40 years of aviation history can be seen at the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum.

The Plattsburgh Air Force Base opened in 1955 in response to the looming Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. During this time, recruited pilots lived in stone barracks with their squadrons.

“The Plattsburgh Barracks and Air Force Base had the longest continuous military presence of any place in the United States,” says Museum Curator Frank Baehre.

During its time in operation, the Plattsburgh Air Force Base featured a museum that offered history of all American Air Force bases.

As decades passed and the Cold War thawed, the Air Force Base and its museum closed in 1995.

Some members of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association, many of whom were pilots themselves, decided to commemorate and tell the story of the 380th Bomb Wing. With the help of these veterans, the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum reopened in June 2014. Unlike the original museum, this one specifically tells the story of the base, the people there and their part in the community.

When the base and its museum closed in 1995, everything left with it. Baehre was hesitant about reopening the museum because “there were no existing means to tell the story.” Over time, the museum soon developed a growing collection of donated artifacts.

“One way we received [artifacts] was from people in or out of the area who had a connection with the Plattsburgh Air Force Base and wished to share,” says Baehre, who is also an ex-pilot and Battle of Plattsburgh Association member.

Baehre says the museum is hands-on; with a tool table and an FB-111 cockpit procedures trainer, which was used to train pilots and navigators, visitors are allowed to hold authentic relics and are able to experience what it was like to be a bomber pilot.  

The museum also pays tribute to Clyde A. Lewis, a local lawyer and bomber pilot who strived to open what became the original Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

And then there’s the bomb.

“My grandpa has a bomb in his garage,” an elementary schooler, who was visiting the museum with his class, tells Baehre. That following week, the boy’s grandfather arrived with the bomb in his pickup truck. That’s how the museum acquired one of its most unique items: a real Air Force training bomb from the 1950s.

Other relics include uniforms, squadron patches, nose art (decorative paintings on aircrafts) and miniature aircraft replicas.

Anyone who wishes to relive the past is welcome to visit the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum, a recollection of 40 years of Air Force history.

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