Grissom Air Museum
Rooster and I joined friends on a ride to the Grissom Air Museum. Our group got lucky because the museum was open despite COVID-19. #Grissom Air Museum #Grissom Air Force Base #Bunker Hill #Motorcycle Ride #Indiana #Broken Arrow
From the time I attended elementary school, I’ve known about the existence of Grissom Air Force Base. My uncle was a WWII vet. He and my Aunt traveled to the commissary on the base to pick up supplies regularly. Sometimes they took our family along with them. I remember one fateful trip when snow fell from the sky at such a fast rate we got stuck for hours on the highway.
Rooster and I have passed by the Grissom Air Museum every time we take US 31 north. In fact, several years ago, it served as a stop for one of our motorcycle charity rides. We took the time to look at the planes. However, we didn’t venture inside the museum. I mentioned to Rooster a couple of weeks before all the museums in the state of Indiana shut down due to COVID-19 we should make a special trip to Grissom Air Force base and pay a visit to the museum.
That was before social distancing caused the world to come to a screeching halt. Under those circumstances, I didn’t think we’d be able to see the museum all summer. Therefore, I was surprised when we discovered it open while on a spontaneous motorcycle ride with a group of friends.
History of Grissom Air Force Base
The tiny military base first came into being in an Indiana cornfield in 1942. The navy, marines, as well as the Coast Guard, trained pilots to fly amid the seclusion of the Indiana countryside. When World War II ended, the field was turned over to the farmers. The Air Force Base was reopened on June 22, 1954, due to the Korean Conflict and named Bunker Hill Air Force Base.
The renaming of the base occurred on May 12, 1968, in honor of Hoosier native Lieutenant Colonel Virgil I. ‘Gus” Grissom. He died on January 27, 1967, during a fire in his Apollo space capsule during a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy, Florida.
During the Cold War, Grissom, Air Force base had Its own ‘Broken Arrow’ incident, due to a B-58 Hustler crash in which five atom bombs caught on fire. The military uses this term when a nuclear weapon is lost stole, or detonated by accident. This close call happened in 1964. The pilot died on impact, but residents in the surrounding communities went about their daily lives blissfully unaware of how close they came to being crispy critters.
In 1978, the base functioned as a refueling station. However, drastic changes in the military made it necessary to transform the Grissom base into an Airforce Reserve Command facility. It is one of only five in the country. Rumors exist that the facility might become a part of the rejuvenated space program in the future. The history associated with this Airforce Base makes a trip to the Grissom Air Museum a patriotic experience.
History of Grissom Air Museum
Seven prior military personnel at the base founded the Grissom Air Museum in 1981 outside the gates of the Air Force base. Their goal was to preserve the aircraft that flew in and out of the military facility, which was the home of the 305th bomber wing and the 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. They opened outside the Airforce gates in 1982 with 32 aircraft. There are plans to institute the B-58 Hustler in the future. Therefore, it is an amazing sight to cruise down the highway and witness these planes secured behind the chain-link fence.
How we ended up at the Grissom Air Museum
Lynn Anderson’s parents rode their motorcycles to Indiana from the great state of Tennessee to visit her. They wanted to go for a ride through the Indiana countryside despite the accident they had while they were on the road. Jerry walked with a limp. Maggie had a few minor injuries. Still, they wanted to ride. We headed north on US 31 until Brett Anderson pulled through the gates of the Grissom Air Museum. We got lucky. The doors to the museum were open despite the closure due to COVID-19. A local motorcycle group associated with the UAW had a motorcycle ride to benefit veterans who live in the area.
We blended with the crowd and walked through the doors of the Grissom Air Museum. Biker’s wandered through the inside of the building that housed a collection of relics and memorabilia from the Airforce base. Also, a person could sit in the cockpit of a jet or operate a flight simulator. We came across some people we hadn’t seen since we started social distancing and experienced a warm reunion.
The inside of the Grissom Air Museum is small and condensed. We found the main attraction to be the collection of airplanes housed outside the building. If you are a person interested in Air Force history, the Grissom Air Museum should be at the top of your places to visit list. You can stroll the area beyond the chain-link fence and study military aircraft all day long. It was hot, humid, and we had other places we wanted to ride to, so we did a short walk of the grounds before we mounted the bikes again.
The Grissom Air Museum itself might be small, but the planes are worth coming to see. Rooster and I plan to go back again when we have more time to look around. Jerry and Maggie had a good time. I believe they found the museum interesting. After a trip to the ER, Jerry found out he had five broken bones in his injured foot.
As a child of the Cold War, Grissom Air Force Base was a somber fixture in my growing up years. I came of age amid the Cold War. In elementary school, we practiced atom bomb safety procedures. As if hiding under our desks would protect us from the radiation. The constant whispers of a Russian invasion kept all of us on our toes. A communist spy was hiding behind every bush. By the time I became a teenager, the Vietnam War casualty list had become a fixture on the evening news. Grissom Air Force Base stood as a silent sentinel less than twenty miles from where I lived. People around here slept better at night knowing it existed. I’m glad they are preserving this piece of military history for future generations.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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