“The Millionaires’ Unit” was a moniker given by the New York press to group of wealthy Yale students who formed a private air militia in 1916 to learn to fly in preparation for the United States entering World War I. Author and historian Marc Wortman wrote a book about them in 2006, and a college friend of mine, Ron King, saw his grandfather’s face on the book’s cover. The archival material seemed rich, and we decided to make a documentary.
In 1987, the historian Michael S. Sherry published a groundbreaking and controversial book titled The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (Yale UP, 1987). Sherry in effect reinterpreted the history of American air power in a way that was more contextually based and fiercely critical. The result was not to every military historian’s liking because it deviated so dramatically from what was considered the master narrative of American air power, which traditionally had focused on combat tactics and weaponry, and which had neglected the broader implications of air power and its employment. Moreover, Sherry upset the “Good War” narrative (mistakenly from Studs Terkel’s ironically titled The Good War: An Oral History of WWII) that emphasizes the heroic side of war and downplays its destructiveness, death, and tragedy. Thus, The Rise of American Air Power could be seen as representative of what has been termed the “New Military History,” an attempt to bring military history into line with other academic historical endeavor.
What flies using power from the Sun, at the speed of an ultralight, on wings longer than a Boeing 777 airliner? Answer: Solar Impulse! A team of Swiss entrepreneurs, engineers, pilots, and enthusiasts began to design the Solar Impulse in 2003 with the goal to demonstrate flying day-and-night powered only by the electricity that more than 11,000 individual solar cells generate. The electricity is stored in batteries when not used, and spin the propellers on four 10-horsepower electric motors when in flight.
When Secretary of the Navy William J. Middendorf II commissioned the USS Smithsonian, CVM-76, on June 28, 1976, he announced in authentic navy parlance that “the floors are now decks, walls are bulkheads and stairs are ladders. "Welcome Aboard!” Visitors to the gallery may not realize that exhibits artisans built the gallery using the decks, bulkheads, ladders and other parts removed from five famous American aircraft carriers.
Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum don’t often get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true in terms of the labor that goes into collecting and caring for our artifacts. Many may wonder where all the air and space stuff (we call them artifacts) comes from. The answer is from a variety of places, including the United States Air Force, NASA, and the general public. These artifacts vary; some are large (aircraft and spacecraft) but many are relatively small (aircraft equipment or military or commercial airline uniforms and insignia, for example, or items of popular culture—air and space toys and games).
The high-flying long-range North American P-51 Mustang escort fighter was a war-winning weapon for the United States and its Allies during World War II. As American Mustang pilots protected bombers and pursued their enemies in the air over Europe and the Pacific, they earned a place for themselves and their airplane in the annals of military and aviation history. The availability of surplus Mustangs and other fighters such as the Corsair, Bearcat, Airacobra, and Lightning after World War II and into the 1950s helped create what we call the “warbird” community today.
This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.