On June 23, 1948, the Soviet Union blockaded ground access to West Berlin, at that time occupied by the United States, Great Britain, and France. All road, rail, and barge traffic was shut down. President Harry S. Truman and Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the American Military Governor of Germany, resolved to keep the city supplied by air. The resulting “Operation Vittles” – also known as the Berlin Airlift – was a massive combined effort of all the U.S. armed services and the Western powers.
On May 14, 1909, Alexander Graham Bell wrote to Charles D. Walcott, then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, detailing his plans to donate C. H. Claudy’s photographs of the Wright brothers’ 1908 Army Trials at Fort Myer, Virginia. The two page letter details the significance of the photos and his desire to have them perserved by the Smithsonian institution.
Last month, the National Air and Space Museum lost long-time employee, Tom Dietz. Tom began his time at the Museum in the late 1980s as an intern, and joined the permanent staff in 1989 as a museum specialist in the Aeronautics Division.
Flag Day is June 14 and it reminds me of one of the most famous "stars and stripes" in history -- the one left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 crew in 1969. I remember clearly that day when, as a teenager, I watched with my family as the flag was planted on the lunar surface. It brought chills to us all.
The high-priority project these days is the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight gallery update, and several of the aircraft planned for the gallery are at the Garber Facility for cleaning, repairs, and preparation for hanging. Let’s take a quick look.
May 6th, 1944 - one month to the day before D-Day - German troops scatter for safety as Lt. Albert Lanker of the 31st Photo Reconnaissance Squadron flies fast and very low over the beach in "Outlaw", his F-5 Lightning (a variant of the Lockheed P-38 fighter). Lanker's job was to photograph the beach obstructions on the Normandy coast for the planners of the massive invasion; it was only his third mission. Jobs of this sort were called "dicing" missions, because the pilot, flying low (and unarmed) was dicing with death every time he flew.
The original studio model of the Starship Enterprise used in the television series "Star Trek" came to the Smithsonian Institution thirty-five years ago, donated by Paramount Studios in 1974. When the television show ended in 1969, the starship had been crated and stored at the studios. Over time, heat, cold, humidity and other elements had taken a toll on the structure, the wiring and other internal components as well as the exterior paint scheme. Before it could be put on exhibit, extensive restoration was required.
A Smithsonian Institution curator whom I greatly admire once said that collecting objects for a museum is a bit like standing next to a river with a bucket. The curator’s task is to gather examples that explain what is important about something (in this analogy, a river), but the curator can only take what fits in the bucket. How do you capture the essence of something large and complex with a sample that is small enough to be preserved and displayed?
Baker, a squirrel monkey, perches on a model of the Jupiter missile that launched her into space on a sub-orbital flight, along with a rhesus monkey named Able, on May 28, 1959 - fifty years ago. Fruit fly larva and sea urchin eggs also accompanied Able and Baker, who both survived the flight; Able, though, died four days after the flight from a reaction to the anesthetic given during surgery to remove an electrode.