Day Five: Onwards to Ohio and the USAF Museum

I awoke early for our big trip of the holiday - to the USAF museum in Dayton, Ohio.

Now there appears to have been some history between these two states that you should know - they don't seem to like each other much! Rather like us and the French! Apparently, if you have Michigan plates and are 1 mph over the limit on the road in Ohio, you get a ticket, and of course the reverse is true in Michigan if you have Ohio plates! We left Cindy's house with strict instructions - "don't speed in Ohio".

Our drive took us down the hectic I-275 (a mad road that),the I-75 and then the I-70. This took us past Detroit's outskirts, through Toldeo and pas the factory where the famouse Willy's Jeep was made, and Jeep's are still made today. The countryside didn't change much, but as we crossed the state line, I noticed that the driving was strictly to the limits and there was a noticable police prescence, complete with guns, radar and real ones.

We found a "diner" just off the I-70 and stopped for a road lunch of burgers and fries, washed down with cola. I was most amused though to find that the ladies of Ohio came out with the usual "are you from England? I just think your accent's so cute!" and all that. How lovely is that!

The airfield took us some time to find and after finding our way in, we immediately joined a guided tour, led by a USAF vet. - Mr Herb Weatherfield. This guy was just amazing: an USAF vet who seemed to have served mostly in Europe, so had a good appreciation of most people in the world and had a great outlook on life. A real humble bloke who knew an awful lot about everything to do with planes and history.

Herb started off by getting into every Brits good books by admitting that most of America's bi-planes in the First World War were British. The rest were French. The US was slow in developing the flight technology despite the Wright Bros. getting them in the air first. 1-0 to Herb. Next he amazed us with his articulate description of how a plane flies, and then launched into the essentials of flight dynamics. There was a poor teenager from NYC with us in the group and unfortunetly for him, every maths question Herb posed went the NYC kids way! Good job as I couldn't have answered Herb either! 2-0 Herb

Next, WWII and more doffing of US hats to the Brits, especially as we were looking around a Spitfire and Hurricane at the time. Herb, of course, knew that whilst the Spit was the best British fighter, the Hurricane shot down more German bombers in the Battle of Britian. 4-0 Herb. Onto the best fighter in WWII, The Mustang and 5-1 to Herb as he described the development of a British designed plane, that evolved thanks to a redesign of the canopy and was re-engined with a Merlin. Well, a Packard version of it. However, I was able to beat herb on the other invention that's important here - drop tanks. These were made from papier mache and enabled the Mustang to escort the B-17's over Germany in daylight, a war winning formula as the Luftwaffe was inflicting huige damage to the USAAF until then. Herb didn't think that anybody knew that, but I haven't had an interest in Military history for 35 years for nothing Herb!

Onto the post war part and the most amazing coincidental part of the tour. Herb was decribing the Berlin Airlift on 1949 and said that US pilots used to drop sweets (that's candy in the US) to the kids as they approched the runway, by using handkerchiefs as parachutes. Herb wasn't sure if this was an urban myth, but I said it was true as I had seen this at the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin. Then, incredibly, a German visitor said "Ja! Its true! I was one of those kids!" 6-1 Herb

Our tour finished in the main hallway and as it was 5:30, time was limited to getting some shots of the exhibits including a Global Hawk, only just used in Gulf War II.

My favourite exhibit was the Apollo 15 command module. Used by Dave Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden, this was the first of the extended Apollo mission and really made a difference in the exploration of the Moon by mankind, as they explored the Hadley Rille and found the famous "Genesis Rock".

We left the museum and headed for the Super-8 motel that Cindy had booked. This was the best motel I had stayed in three previous visits to the US. It had a pool and a jacuzi and was well decorated. Having eaten and rested, we drank some beer in the nearby local bar and then headed for zzzz's. Another great day in the US - and it was in Ohio!

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