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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eglin Air Base - Sweet Little Treasure Near Fort Walton Beach

This is a MOAB - Bunker Buster - the most powerful non-nuclear bomb

You might ask, "What are you doing Harry - 150 miles west of home?"

Originally - Lulu planned to drive to Houston for a library visit. Then we would have stopped in New Orleans for a Mardi Gras weekend in New Orleans. But schedules change - and a 2000 mile drive seemed a little much for just one school library visit. I had to twist her arm a bit - but Lulu finally relented. I drove her to the new Panama City Airport - and she took a non-stop flight to Houston. The drive to Panama City is 2 hours - and yesterday after I dropped Lulu off at the airport - proceeded to Eglin Air Base.

It is another 50 miles to Eglin near Fort Walton Beach - but this museum is worth it. It reminds me of a flashback to the 1950s when my Dad and I used to belong to AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) and PVMC (Panther Valley Model Club). We used to go from air base to airbase where we would have model airplane meets. I remember all the German and Japanese planes covered with weeds - excess booty from World War II.

I am staying overnight in Panama City at a cheap Comfort Inn. The price was right and it has free internet - so I am in hog heaven. After I file this story - I plan to tour the town's historic sites - and then pick Lulu up at the airport at 7 PM - and chauffeur her home.

Eglin Air Base is where Air Force pilots train. It is famous for two special missions. During WWII - it was on this isolated field where General Jimmy Doolittle trained a ragtag crew of pilots to fly B-25s off a carrier (never before done) to attack Tokyo right after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Here - Colonel Tibbetts and his crews practiced dropping the first atomic bomb - the one that ended World War II.

The United States Armament Museum is a fantastic collection of historic aircraft and bombs. It is right along the highway - no big fences around it - you can walk among the pine trees and aircraft - kicking through the pine needles while your mind wanders through these once secret weapons - now pieces saved from the melting pot.

This is a Russian MIG-21 - for years the top plane behind the Iron Curtain

This is a BUD (Big Ugly Dish) - we used to have one in Pennsylvania to watch Seminole sporting events intercepting wild feeds over the satellites

This is an F-86 - first production plane to go faster than sound. This one was also named BETTY after my mother-in-law.

You must be an officer to fly all planes - except for these Hueys and other helicopter

The A-10 Warthog pilots trained here. This plane supports ground troops with low level combat strafing

The C-47 Goonie Bird - General Patton named this plane and the jeep as the two most important vehicles of WWII

Plaque remembering General Doolittle practicing here for the Tokyo Raid

B-25 - my Dad's favorite plane from WWII - he built a 6 foot long flying model of this aircraft

The SR-71 spy plane - flew fast and high as it photographed - Russia - Cuba - Libya - and many other secret places. My buddy John Orlando loves this plane

This "smart bomb" has a camera in the front and can be steered to the target

"I won't leave my wingman!" - Incredible story - these two F-4s were over North Vietnam. One ran out of fuel in enemy territory. His wingman told him to put down his tailhook. The wingman then pushed the plane over to Laos where they both ran out of gas - and were rescued in safer territory

This is a cruise missile capable of traveling 1000 miles at treetop level and delivering an atomic bomb to a pinpoint target. It can be launched from a plane - ship - or submarine

Fat Man and Little Boy were the two atomic bombs we dropped on Japan ending WWII. This is Fat Man - dropped on Nagasaki. It was carried by a B-29 and the crew trained here
This is our new Toyota Prius sitting near a B-25 and B-17. The Prius got 53.1 MPG on our trip from Tallahassee to Fort Walton Beach. It holds 12 gallons - with a range over 600 miles on one tank of gasoline. On some stretches of the trip it was running on electricity and the MPG gauge read 100 miles per gallon. It will pick Lulu up at the Panama City Airport today at 7 PM and wisk her home in 2 hours. She will have been over to Houston - made a school library visit - and returned home in 36 hours. She is my hero.

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