The Walker Aviation Museum Foundation is pleased to announce the opening of a new display, “Peace Through Strength,” which features materials, memorabilia, and a timeline for the Walker Air Force Base from December 1, 1945 through November 23, 1955. It was during this period that the base entered a new phase of operation as a major part of the Strategic Air Command, maintaining peace throughout the world during the Cold War. The exhibit is dedicated to the memory of Air Force Veterans and founding board members of the Walker Aviation Museum, Jack Ribbach and Dennis Ybarra, both of whom worked tirelessly to establish and equip the museum.
The new display was designed and developed by WAMF board member, Juliana Halvorson, who said, “I hope everyone comes out to learn more about the units that were stationed at RAAF/Walker from 1945-55. This was an important part of our nation’s history. Many people do not realize the importance that our base had in the protection of the United States. Not only does this display cover the military aspect, it also touches on the value of families that were a significant part of military life.”
The display begins with events that brought World War II to an end. The 509th Bomb Wing traces its historical roots to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group, a unit formed with one mission in mind: to drop the atomic bomb. The group made history on August 6, 1945, when the B-29 “Enola Gay,” piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The “Bockscar,” piloted by Maj. Charles Sweeney visited the Japanese mainland three days later and dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
In late 1945, the group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, later named Walker Air Force Base, where it became the core of the newly formed Strategic Air Command. In August 1946, the renamed 509th Bombardment Group returned to the Pacific to participate in Operation Crossroads. During this operation, the B-29 Dave’s Dream dropped an atomic bomb on an armada of obsolete and captured ships moored off the Bikini Atoll. The museum exhibit features a signal lantern from the “Enola Gay,” donated by Dena Brown.
The 6th Bombardment Wing (Medium) was activated at Walker Air Force Base on January 2, 1951. The unit consisted of the 24th, 39th and 40th Bomb Squadrons and was equipped with B-29 Superfortress, B-36 Peacemaker, the KC-135, and the B-52. The 307th AREFS was also attached until 1952 and operated KB-29s. Information about all of these aircraft and others stationed at WAFB during this time period is on display.
The new display features a flight jacket and other memorabilia from the estate of Col. Clyde H. Camp, Jr. USAF Ret., who was Base Commander at WAFB from 1954-1957, following his Korean Bombing Mission. This material is on permanent loan from the estate and made possible by Col. Camp’s granddaughter, Cara Quici, who visited the museum in March 2012. In a letter that accompanied the materials, Ms. Quici said, “I lived with my grandfather, so it has been very important for me to honor him. I feel at peace knowing he is being honored.”
From 1961 until 1965 the 579th Strategic Missile Squadron and its Atlas missiles were part of the 6th Bombardment Wing. The museum also houses a permanent display funded by a grant from the 579th Missile Squadron Reunion Group.
Gun enthusiasts will want to see a display of WWII era Russian, German, and Japanese rifles and bayonets donated by Walker Vet Roger Grommesch. In addition to these items and information about the planes and crews stationed at WAFB during this period, the new display provides a fascinating glimpse into family life in the military and at WAFB, courtesy of materials donated by WAFB Veteran Milton Sprouse. Sprouse saved a lot of memorabilia from Roswell and the surrounding area, including movie ticket stubs, checkbooks, credit cards, brochures, and other fun reminders of life in Roswell and the USA, in the 40’s and 50’s.
The Walker Aviation Museum is located inside the Roswell International Airport, #1 Jerry Smith Circle, and is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Special arrangements can be made for groups and out-of-town guests by calling the museum, 575-347-2464. The museum is free and open to the public. The museum’s website is www.wafbmuseum.org. Through it, visitors can access a wealth of information, including photos, videos, and documents from and about WAFB.