Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum curator Steve Smith tells NBC 7 reporter Steven Luke about the secrets behind the Museum's historic aircraft and their restoration. (Click the photo below to view the video.)
(reprinted in part from a story by Sgt. David Bickel at https://www.dvidshub.net/news/229559/leatherneck-legacy-lives-through-aviation.)
As an organization, the Marine Corps culture is based on rigid tradition with a rich historical path paved by the Marines of bygone eras. Part of that legacy is Marine aviation, preserved by a hidden gem containing historically significant equipment, aircraft and stories, located just outside of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum came into existence after a similar aviation museum at MCAS El Toro closed after the air station was decommissioned in 1999.
“Gen. Jay Hubbard, who started the museum at MCAS El Toro, called me up and said that they were going to close MCAS El Toro and move the museum to MCAS Miramar,” said retired Maj. Gen. Bobby Butcher, a Vietnam veteran and museum chairman of the board. “I joined his board of directors in 1997 at El Toro, formed a steering committee at MCAS Miramar in early 1999, and on April 1, 1999, I started the museum foundation down here.”
The museum is home to rotary aircraft and several fixed wing assets which have been used throughout the Marine Corps’ history.
“I flew the A-4 Skyhawk for 31 years, and we have several versions outside,” said Butcher. “We have a drone outside that has seen combat in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as well as many more aircraft that have been in combat.”
Many of the aircraft displayed at the museum have seen combat with different squadrons throughout the years.
“I’ve flown an OV-10 Bronco,” said Butcher. “The one that we have outside actually saw combat as part of a Navy Squadron in Vietnam and the Marine Corps used it in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.”
Veterans are the primary volunteers at the museum and often share their individual stories and experiences with guests.
“When I came back from Vietnam, we were briefed before they turned us loose and let us go,” recalled Butcher. “They insisted that we changed into civilian clothes because if we went out of the gate in uniform, we would get spit on and have things thrown at us.”
(The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information on this page does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.)
The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is pleased to announce our newest display -- the Medal of Honor Stories Kiosk, celebrating America’s Medal of Honor recipients.
This interactive exhibit highlights the men and women who have received our nation’s highest award for valor in combat. This display was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.
The Medal of Honor was established in 1861, and is awarded for personal acts of valor “above and beyond the call of duty.” Since the American Civil War, more than 40 million individuals have served in the United States Armed Forces. However, barely more than 3,500 men and women have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
The database of the Medal of Honor kiosk contains a complete, searchable catalog of all Medal of Honor recipients. The exhibit also presents video interviews with MoH recipients who share their stories of valor, devotion to duty, faith and service to our country.
The Medal of Honor Stories Kiosk is a natural complement to the Museum’s Hall of Heroes exhibit. Guests can learn about every Medal of Honor recipient, including the Marine Corps aviators that have been so honored. This exhibit is also an important part of the Flying Leatherneck’s education initiatives and student outreach. It will be used as a tool to educate and inspire students about the importance of “Honor, Courage and Commitment,” patriotism and American history.
The Flying Leathernecks encourage everyone to experience the Medal of Honor Stories Kiosk during your next museum visit.
 To date, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. Doctor Walker served as a battlefield surgeon for the Union Army during the Civil War.
Don’t miss Flying Leathernecks vintage aircraft at the MCAS Miramar Air Show. (The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum will be closed September 23-25, 2016, Friday – Sunday, during the Show.) Our A-4M Skyhawk II -- "The Easter Egg" -- will be just one of the aircraft from the Museum's historic collection on display.
Beginning in September, visitors to the museum will see our Marine airplane and helicopter displays being prepared for moving to the Air Show. For example, our crew will be folding the rotors of the CH-46 “Lady Ace” helicopter. Come and see how ground crews were able to make more room on an aircraft carrier by making each aircraft take up less space.
For those attending the Air Show (admission is FREE), you’ll be able to take photos of you and your family with our legendary aircraft on the flight line, including:
- A-6E Intruder
- RF-4B Phantom II
- EA-6B Prowler
- A-4C Skyhawk and A-4M Skyhawk II
- CH-46 Sea Night
- UH-34 Seahorse
- SBD-1 Dauntless
- HOK helicopter
Our display areas at the Air Show include the Expo Hanger, the Chalet, and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
General Jimmy Doolittle once commented, “There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” This certainly describes the quality of the volunteer team at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. Stop by one of our display areas at the Show and say hello to our docents.
Find out what’s new at Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum
Text FLYUSMC to 42828 to receive email updates on special programs, Picnics with Pilots, essay contests for students, Open Cockpit Days and new exhibits.
Remember, we love to see photos of your experience. Post them to our Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum Facebook page.
See you at the Air Show!
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There’s a new way to stay connected to your favorite Aviation Museum in San Diego at MCAS Miramar. We’ve just launched our new Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum on FaceBook page. Check in daily to see what’s new in exhibits, restoration projects, visitors, retirement ceremonies, and much more at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
Visit the new page -- Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum on Facebook -- and “Like” us!
And while you’re there -- tell us about your summer visit to the Museum. Post your best photos and share the fun!
We’re building momentum for the future. When you’re in the San Diego area, bring your family, friends and future aviators. It’s fun and admission is always free. (We hope to see you Tuesday - Sunday, 9am -3:30pm.)
Our docents are always there to make your visit memorable.
“Like” us on FaceBook
“Follow us” on Twitter
Post video on YouTube.
During our last open cockpit days of the 2015 summer season, meet Major Glenn Ferguson (USMC-Retired). Oh, the stories the Major can tell about his long distinguished career as:
- World War II dive-bomber pilot – when he crashed on a battleship, and experienced engine failure on several occasions
- Korean War medical evacuation pilot – ferrying wounded by helicopter (like they showed in the TV show MASH), and holding 3 prisoners at bay with the rotating blades of his helicopter
- Co-pilot of Marine One for Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon
From forced landings to bungee cord helicopter controls, Major Ferguson can tell some amazing stories!
Come meet him from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, August 22 and 23
Maj Glenn Ferguson joined the Marine Corps in 1939, hoping to see the world and fulfill a boyhood dream of becoming a pilot. His Marine Corps career began at boot camp in San Diego.
Assignment in Washington, D.C. – including the White House
Major Ferguson provided protection for couriers carrying top secret war documents across the country, and helped set up security (including getting rid of copperheads) at Shangri Lai (the presidential retreat that later became known as Camp David).
He checked in dignitaries at the East Wing of the F.D.R. White House.
- At this stage in his career, the only aircraft he flew were model airplanes. One of those models got away, and he had to climb out a window and onto the roof of the White House to retrieve it. ( Too bad camera phones weren’t around then . . .)
- Trained to be a pilot in open air, fabric-covered bi-planes called “yellow perils” that were started by the students cranking a heavy flywheel. He learned landing and acrobatics.
- Qualified to fly dive bombers, torpedo bombers and fighters.
- Made landings over the front of the old whale boats as a machine gunner and participated in practice landings in pre-Higgins Boat training exercises.
World War II Combat Action
Major Ferguson had an accident with breech on a hot gun in a battleship. (Be sure to ask him about that one!)
- He was sent to Pearl Harbor in 1944 to be part of the planned first wave of the invasion of the Japanese homeland in which 1 million casualties were expected. Practiced carrier landings by landing on the outline of a carrier deck on the island of Molokai. When Japan surrendered, he was diverted to serve as a dive bomber in China where the Manchurian Army had not yet surrendered.
- After the war, he served as a Marine Corps test pilot and flight instructor. The Major experienced several “incidents” of engine failure during these early days of flight with the military pushing aircraft to the limits.
- In 1950, he was trained to fly helicopters in Pensacola. (Early versions of helicopters had flight controls partly assisted with bungee cords . . . pilots appreciated a craft with newly-replaced bungee cords!) He had an engine explode while carrying the Undersecretary of the Navy, and later made a forced landing on a dark night in the hills of Southern Okinawa.
The Korean Conflict
- In 1952, he was sent to Korea as a medical-evacuation pilot. Helicopters of the time were not equipped with sophisticated instruments for flying at night, so he sometimes had to navigate by starlight. Wounded were carried outside with a metal hood over their heads to protect them from air currents, and sandbags were used to balance loads.
- Was able to hold three prisoners at bay so they could be apprehended by military police by using the turning blades of a helicopter.
- Finished tour with 134 missions (29 of which were night missions) and evacuated 132 wounded.
Return to Washington, D.C.
- As part of the HMX squadron, he served as Marine One co-pilot for President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon. He flew President Eisenhower on trips throughout the United States (including trips to his farm in Gettysburg) and on his tours of the Middle East and South America.
See Invested in Tomorrows Leaders for more information on Major Ferguson.
Welcome to the “Dog Days” of summer. If you haven’t heard, the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum (at MCAS Miramar in San Diego) is getting a facelift. Spread the word!
During the months of July and August 2015, the museum gallery renovation is continuing at a rapid pace. Thankfully, there are no plastic surgeons involved. For those following us @FlyUSMC1 on Twitter, you would have seen the addition of new carpeting, freshly-painted walls, and most importantly -- the newest addition to our displays, The Hall of Heroes.
Hall of Heroes Paintings Honor USMC Medal of Honor and Navy Cross Recipients
The Hall of Heroes is a one-of-a-kind collection of paintings commissioned by the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation that honors Medal of Honor (MOH) and Navy Cross recipients. Learn about the Marines who have helped preserve our Nation's freedom. Under each painting is a gold-framed citation that describes the action that resulted in the award of the MOH or the Navy Cross.
When you’re in the San Diego area. bring your family, friends and future aviators. It’s fun and admission is always free. (We hope to see you Tuesday - Sunday, 9am -3:30pm.)
Pilot Talk: Farewell to the "Phrog"
Saturday, August 1st 11:00 am-noon
After more than 50 years of service, the United States Marine Corps is retiring the CH-46 helicopter (nicknamed the “Phrog”).
Colonel Fred Allega (USMC-retired) will share some of his experiences as a pilot of the iconic helicopter and other aircraft he flew.
Colonel Allega served for 30 years in the Marine Corps including two combat tours in Vietnam. He has a total of 4200 flight hours including 1500 in the CH-46 helicopter.
During his career, he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 27 air medals.
Colonel Allega served as the Presidential Helicopter Airlift Commander for Presidents Nixon and Ford.
In 1981, he was recognized as the Marine Aviator of the Year.
At the end of his talk, Colonel Allega will give tours of the CH-46 helicopter on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
More About Colonel Allega's Distinguished Military Service
Colonel Allega began his military career as a Marine Aviation Cadet (MARCAD). Upon receiving his Wings of Gold, he served two combat tours as a helicopter pilot in the Republic of Vietnam, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Single Mission Air Medals and twenty-five Air Medals.
During his career, Colonel Allega was assigned to the following CH-46 squadrons: HMM-361, HMM-265, HMM-262, HMM-165, HMM-163and HMX-1. Additionally, he served a tour in VT-2 as a T-28 Flight Instructor, During his HMX-1 tour, Colonel Allega served as a Presidential Helicopter Aircraft Commander for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Following his tours in Vietnam, Colonel Allega served several tours in the Aviation Department, Headquarter Marine Corps. In his role as Director, Aviation Program Requirements (APW), he contributed to numerous projects supporting operational requirements, organizational strategy and investment decisions to attain increased funding for Marine Corps aviation weapon programs.
Colonel Allega’s command billets include Commanding Officer HMM-163 (“Evil Eyes”) and Commanding Officer, Marine Aircraft Group 16. In 1981, LtCol Allega, was selected as the Marine Corps Aviator of the Year and received the Alfred A. Cunningham Award from the Marine Corps Aviation Association. Simultaneously, his squadron HMM-163, was awarded the MCAA Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron of the year.
His Love of Aviation Continued into His Career in Private Industry
Colonel Allega retired from the Marine Corps in 1990 and joined Mercury Air Group Inc. As Executive General Manager, he directed corporate/airline fueling and monitored aircraft maintenance operations at Los Angeles (LAX) International airport. As the Director of the Western Region, Allega directed Fixed Based Operations (FBO) for Los Angeles, John Wayne, Ontario, Burbank, Bakersfield, Fresno and Reno airports. The facilities under his responsibility dispensed over 100-million gallons of jet fuel per year and provided airline turnaround maintenance for 400 aircraft per month. During his tenure, Allega participated in the acquisition and consolidation of four additional general aviation businesses. He retired from Mercury Aviation in June, 2006.
Colonel Allega holds a commercial pilot’s license and is an instrument rated pilot authorized to fly single-engine, multi-engine and helicopter aircraft.
Major Glenn Ferguson (USMC-Retired)
Glenn Ferguson appreciates how having good role models and character training can change the trajectory of a life. Consequently, to invest in tomorrow’s leaders, and expand the Flying Leatherneck Historical Foundation’s educational outreach, Major Ferguson has recently made a significant financial gift.
Through personal narratives of the museum’s docents, historical aircraft, and military artifacts, the goal is to inspire K-12 students with lessons in character, leadership, U.S. history and aviation principles.
Thanks to Major Ferguson's generosity, a Character Development initiative is being established in collaboration with the staff of the Character Development Center (CDC) at the University of San Diego. Working in conjunction with the CDC ensures all programs created will meet state and national educational standards.
Major Ferguson admits, as an Illinois farm boy, lacking in his life was a sense of purpose. So, in 1939, with “wanderlust” in his eyes, he joined the Marine Corps. He took full advantage of the training and role models that he encountered in the Corps to develop his own technical and leadership skills. His extraordinary career included missions as a dive-bomber pilot during World War II, medical-evacuation pilot during the Korean Conflict and Marine One co-pilot for President Eisenhower on trips to South America and the Middle East.
A Life member of the Foundation, Major Ferguson serves as an active volunteer at the Flying Leatherneck Museum. He is a favorite speaker for school groups currently making field trips to the Museum.
Newspaper headlines scream about the influence of gangs and the prevalence of bullying at schools along with this startling statistic:
88% of America’s high school seniors are below proficiency in U.S. history.
Another statistic, that 77% of 17-24 year old citizens are not qualified to serve in the military, also caught Major Ferguson’s attention. Research indicates this is due to educational shortcomings as well as deficiencies in character manifesting in criminal records and lack of physical fitness. These facts convinced Major Ferguson that much more needs to be done to counteract the destructive influences in the lives of today’s youth. Surveys of educators also demonstrate that teacher resources, particularly in the area of character development training, are sorely lacking.
Major Ferguson summed up his goals for the Museum’s educational programs by stating, “We want to raise our teachers’ awareness; we are here and ready to support them through our docents, artifacts, exhibits, web presence, and aircraft. We want to be known as a community education resource center that teachers and their students return to over and over again.”
You also can change the trajectory of a young life. To learn how you can invest in the education of tomorrow’s leaders, preserve the legacy of the men and women who sacrificed for our country, and support the preservation of the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum’s priceless historical artifacts, please email Foundation Chairman, MajGen Bob Butcher, or call him at (858) 693-1723.
Major General Bob Butcher (USMC-retired) will discuss his experiences and changes to the airplane, the squadron mission and the training of pilots flying the A4. MajGen Butcher, a Marine aviator with worldwide service; is the recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and 15 air medals. June 20th at 11AM-12PM.