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The Airborne & Special Operations Museum

Downtown Fayetteville showcases the history of these twin elements of the US Army ~

Mike Orwick, 21 October 2017

click images to enlarge, and read the plaques

Last week I was in Fayetteville, NC.  Fayetteville is the home of Ft Bragg, where the Army’s 82nd Airborne division and the Army’s Special Operations command are home based.  Located in downtown Fayetteville is the Army’s Airborne and Special Operations Museum.  This museum tells the story of the evolution and history of these two arms of the Army.  On the last day there, a co-worker and myself had an opportunity to visit the museum.

Before going to the museum, we walked to the opposite side of the parking lot, and visited the North Carolina Veterans Memorial.  There are pillars there with each of the county names on them, with molds of hands.  The hands represent the raised hand while taking the oath when joining the military.  The two most interesting items at the memorial was a chandelier make of over 33,000 dog tags and a table setup for a member of each branch of the military for those that are POW or MIA.

Heading back across the parking lot, there are two large statues outside of the museum.  One is of General Shelton who was an airborne officer that rose through the ranks to become the 14th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

 

The second statue is of Iron Mike, a statue intended to represent all paratroopers, past, present, and future, rather than a specific person.  This statue used to be on Ft Bragg.  Currently there is a bronze replica near the post headquarters, and the original was installed at the museum in 2010.

The museum itself is free, but is only open until 5pm, except for Mondays, when it is closed.

There are three main areas of the museum.  A movie theater that shows various newsreels and PR style mini movies.  There’s a large variety of films playing throughout the day, so you could spend a lot of time there trying to take them all in.

The second part of the museum is the only part that requires a purchase.  There are two simulators, that cost $8.50 each.  Due to time constraints, we were not able to visit the simulators.  These are similar to what would be found a lot of amusement parks, large oversized screens with seats that move to give the viewer a sense of being there.

The main part of the building walks you through the history of the US Army’s airborne starting shortly before the United States entry into World War 2.  As most GrogHeads can imagine, about half of the main room chronicles the airborne operations in WW2, in both the European and Asian theaters of operations.

Plaques, pictures, and static displays show the various equipment and battles that the airborne units fought it.  Also highlighted are the various individuals that helped to mold the airborne into the fighting units that they became.  Among the static displays is a C-47, glider, pack howitzer, jeep, and equipment used by the airborne units, or captured from German and Japanese soldiers.

Moving out of WW2, you enter the Korean war display.  As you move toward the Vietnam era, you’re introduced to the birth of the Army’s special operations branch as we know them today.

The rest of the museum takes you through Vietnam, operations in Grenada and Panama, Desert Storm, and into Afghanistan, Iraq, and the current ‘War on Terror’.

For those that are not familiar the history of the US Army’s Airborne and Special Operations units, the museum is very nicely laid out and provides a visitor with a lot of history, lore, and key figures of the Army’s airborne and special operations units.  We took about 2 hours to go through the museum but could easily have been there 3-4 hours, we were not time-constrained.

 


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