Tag Archives: WW II

A Visit to the Lone Star Flight Museum

Thunderbird B-17G Flying Fortress

Thunder Bird B-17G Flying Fortress

I’ve lived in Texas for a little over 16 years now, and it’s taken me this long to discover Galveston’s Lone Star Flight Museum.  I still probably would not have heard of this place had I not been Googling around for some other aviation-related item and just happened to chance upon this site.

I’m interested in all things WWII-related.  If you’ve read my previous post “Remembrance”, then you know my father was a WWII paratrooper who jumped over Normandy on D-Day.

I’d just finished editing a large set of wedding photos and decided for my first free Saturday to take a little drive along the Gulf Coast toward Galveston and visit this museum.  Naturally, I took along one of my cameras (the 1DX with the 16-35mm lens).  I also brought along my 24-70mm lens but exclusively utilized the 16-35 because I wanted that wider-angle perspective perfect for capturing most, if not the entire, plane view.

The museum is well-lit, but it’s still an interior venue; this means I set my camera to a relatively high ISO of 640; I subsequently brightened up the images a little more during the post-process stage.

First Sight in the Hangar

First sight that greets the museum visitor’s eyes

Nose Art

Nose Art

Nose art

Some people think that these buxom, scantily-clad women (not including that winged tiger) are denigrating to the female sex.  I totally disagree!  But maybe it’s because I – on occasion – have the opportunity to photograph very lovely women (sometimes scantily-clad), myself, and thus I see the beauty in what was captured on the plane’s noses.  Don’t forget that this artistry was also a great morale booster to young men very far away from home.  The museum has a great explanation of the nose art you see here in these two photos.  My favorite piece of art is ‘Surprise Attack”.

Willys MB 1943

Willys MB 1943

Planes are not the only items on exhibit in the museum.

Tarheel Hal

Tarheel Hal P-47D Thunderbolt

Special Delivery

Special Delivery – B-25 Mitchell Bomber

During the time I visited, a James Doolittle reenactor was recounting Doolittle’s Raid to several listeners (including yours truly) .  I had a chance to speak to the gentleman afterwards, who told me he’d been doing this for 4 years, during which time he had the good fortune to speak to several survivors as well as to Doolittle’s biographer.

Bum Steer - P51 Mustang

Bum Steer P51 Mustang

According to the placard for this plane, the engine didn’t “meet the expectations of the U.S. Army Air Corps”; Britain re-fitted the planes with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine which greatly improved performance.

Annie Mo  F4U-5N Corsair

“Annie Mo” F4U-5N Corsair

The wing configuration reminds me of the imperial shuttle on Star Wars.  My tour guide Kevin told me that George Lucas is a huge WW II buff.

Marlene - Uncle Hos Nightmare

“Marlene – Uncle Ho’s Nightmare”

Million Airess

“Million Airess”

As a photographer, I absolutely LOVE the nose art on these planes.  Those artists were amazing.

Yellow Peril

Yellow Peril

Surplus Stearmans were sold as crop dusters and stunt planes after the war.  This gorgeous yellow model immediately brought to mind the yellow bi plane crop duster I sometimes see on my way home from Houston, swooping around and flying low to the ground.

A Stearman and A Texan

Ready to Roll

The museum offers 25-minute flights on both the Stearman bi plane and the T-6 Texan Trainer (for a price – check their website for more details).  Flights are offered on Saturdays, good weather permitting.  During the day I visited, the cloud ceiling was too low, otherwise I would have splurged for a ride (had I not been saving for my upcoming Alaska trip, I would have probably taken a ride in both, because they both looked like awesome fun).

FYI –  I recently read an online article indicating the Lone Star Flight Museum will be moved inland to Ellington Field sometime in the spring of 2016.   You see, Hurricane Ike did a number on the museum (to the tune of about $18 million) and damaged several planes.  There’s an American flag hanging on the wall above one of the jeeps; this flag bears a dirty water mark indicating the height of the flood waters that rushed into the museum’s hangars.

Becky and the T-6 Texan Trainer

Becky and The Texan

Special thanks to museum photographer Kevin McGowan for snapping some “me” shots in front of the Texan and the Stearman.  The show woman in me wants to return all gussied up wearing a 1940’s dress for some more photos. Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under Aviation, Canon, low light photography, Photography

Remembrance

ENGLAND

My father during his paratrooper training in England

Every Memorial Day, I look at photographs of my father when he was a very young man in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was quite the looker (as was my mother; I get my good looks from them both, you know).

I understand that Memorial Day is a day of remembering those who died during all of the wars, and my father returned from WW II alive.  Nonetheless, now that he is dead, I seem to think of him more often during this day than during Veteran’s Day.

Dad signed up for service and was assigned to the tank division. He decided this was not exciting enough for him, so he became a paratrooper with the 508th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division (I don’t know which of these comes first, so forgive me here). He trained in England and Ireland; so it was a little more special for me to travel to Ireland back in 2011 on an organized photo tour, because I knew I was visiting a place that Dad thought was beautiful.

Dad jumped over Normandy on D-Day (June 6, 1944), and fought during Operation Market Garden (September 1944) as well as at the Battle of the Bulge (Dec 16, 1944). Of all the paratroopers who jumped during those battles, Dad was one of the very few to return alive each time.

When Dad returned from the war, he was a changed man. He drank – too much, and I’m pretty sure he suffered from a form of PTSD; I don’t even know if the doctors of that time knew what PTSD was, but they certainly never discussed it. So of course, it went untreated in Dad as well as so many other returning veterans.

Dad never talked about the war…unless he was drunk…and it always ended in tears. What Mom and Granny (Dad’s Mom) and the rest of us learned from these times was that those experiences were horrific, as are all experiences dealing with war and battle. Oh, Dad had some really neat stories to share, too, and he didn’t seem to mind talking about those times. My favorite is the one he recounted of Christmas Eve in Belgium.

My relationship with my father was definitely complicated….well, maybe not. We didn’t get along and we didn’t see eye-to-eye about much, if anything….except photography. I hated his drinking and it scared me. I don’t drink much myself and I think it’s because of this….along with the arthritis medicine I take. Nonetheless, Dad and I had a bond with our photography. And I find it ironic that I am more like my father than I ever realized. I have a temper that constantly needs the edges smoothed. I’m not always a patient person, although as I get older, that seems to be less of an issue. Just like Dad, I have a love for adventure and travel and photography.

So many people don’t understand the significance of remembering Memorial Day any longer (although with all the returning veterans from the current wars, that might be changing a little). As one of the Facebook photos I saw this morning noted: Memorial Day is not just a day to have a bbq (although that’s not a bad thing, if you are with friends and family).

Someday, I am going to get to Normandy. I want to see where Dad fought. I want to take my camera with me. I want to stand and listen to the waves hit the beach. I want to walk along the shoreline. I almost made it there in 2011 for an organized photo tour except that tour was cancelled and I instead traveled to Ireland. I’ll get there, though. I’m planning to travel to Paris in 2015 and maybe I’ll take a detour for a day or two.

I think of Dad now and then, but especially during Memorial Day – moreso than even Father’s Day (for reasons written above). Memorial Day is not just about WWII and all those who died during that time; it’s about all the wars that are fought on our behalf, and all those men and women who did not return to their friends and families, so that we may continue to live our lives as we so choose. I don’t like war, but it seems to be a part of our human genome. Too bad #ArcticBiosystems #Helix couldn’t have figured out how to remove that particular item from our DNA.

So, here’s to another year of remembering Dad.

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Filed under Life, Memorial Day