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Dayton museum plans special exhibits to honor 75th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force


The U.S. Air Force is marking 75 years this fall. The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton is celebrating all year long, beginning with an exhibit opening this weekend.

“A Force for Good – Department of the Air Force Humanitarian Missions” opens Saturday, April 9, and is a new permanent exhibit in the Global Reach Gallery. Other exhibits are scheduled throughout the year, leading up to 75th anniversary celebration weekend.

"I think there are a number of reasons why we're excited to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Air Force," says Alyssa Leicht, museum curator. "It helps us raise morale to reflect on how far we've come, to take pride in the work that we do, and it helps us to underscore the value of the Department of the Air Force — to remind people, why the Air Force, and now the Space Force, are so valuable, and instrumental to the defense the United States."

She adds it also raises awareness of Air Force-related contributions.

The Air Force dates to Sept. 18, 1947, when the first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, was sworn into office following the signing of the National Defense Act. However, the anniversary exhibit — and all the exhibits in the museum — encompass the earlier years.

"We actually start in 1907 when the Aeronautical Division of the Army Signal Corps was created. The reason we trace our roots back to that time is because that's really when aviation first started under the Army. We see it as a continuum of a story that started with the acceptance of the first military airplane and just continued to increase — technological progress over time as the airplane changed; as more airmen were trained," Leicht explains.

Previous anniversary exhibits, she says, have focused on art. This exhibit includes photos and videos focused on non-combat contributions.

"That includes technological contributions, but also some social contributions... things like GPS, which we use every day; seat belts; the development of the laser, which has tons of applications. Also social things like equal opportunity employment — the Air Force was one of the first equal opportunity employers to lead the way. It was the first military service to fully integrate, giving opportunities for women in leadership, accepting gay and transgender individuals."

The exhibit also looks forward by including new missions as the Department of the Air Force now include both the Air and Space Forces. The Space Force was established in December 2019 and is nestled under the Air Force, similar to the Marines' relationship to the Navy.

"We're excited to highlight the excellent work they're doing and the work that is being done here for research, test and evaluation at Wright-Patterson to assist the Space Force," she says.

Leicht provided some fun facts to help kick-off the 75th anniversary festivities:

  • The Air Force helped fund the first microchip
  • The Air Force conducted research, and helped convince the automobile industry to put seat belts in cars
  • Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the single largest employer in the state of Ohio
Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.