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National Naval Aviation Museum
The National Naval Aviation Museum is celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year.
A look at some of the first items ever donated to the museum and their place in history.
On June 8th, 1963, the Naval Aviation Museum began.
Capt Bob Rasmussen, USN (Ret.)/Director, National Naval Aviation Museum
"We really started with nothing back in 1962 and 63 when we opened the doors. There was very little here."
But it didn't take long for items to come in unique items.
"One of the first things that we received here was a pair of Navy pilot wings that, of course are not too rare, but these are rare in that they belong to one of our first astronauts from the Mercury 7 program, and that's Scott Carpenter."
Items that have deep significance to our history. Items like this Navy Cross, given to John Waldron, Commanding Officer of Torpedo Squadron 8 during the Battle of Midway.
"The squadron lost every aircraft it sent in to the battle, and all the crews except one pilot. It's a very, very disastrous period for that squadron, of course, but the heroism of the people that flew in that mission is absolutely not questioned. It's extraordinary and for that Commander Waldron received the Navy cross. His wife donated that very valuable medal to the museum right after we opened."
And on it goes story after story, glimpses of lives not forgotten. Tens of thousands of artifacts, and over one thousand aircraft in the collection.
"We may be one of the largest Air Forces anywhere. They don't fly, of course, and that makes them a little less effective."
"There are only 5 aircraft known to exist that actually fought in World War II, that actually had a combat record in World War II. We have all 5 of them here."
With free admission, parking and guided tours, the museum continues to draw visitors from around the country and the world.
Keith Lumpkin/Arlington, TN
"It's better than the one in D.C. It's the best aviation museums I've been to.
Ken Ealy/St. Louis, MO
"Beautiful, beautiful restoration work on most of these aircraft."
"We started out borrowing and sort of make shift, it was really a shoestring operation to start with but as you can see it has grown into something pretty magnificent."
Jim Carmack/Channel 3 News
"So here's to 50 years for the National Naval Aviation Museum, and perhaps 50 more. If you've never been, now is the perfect time for you to come by."