The Strategic Air Command’s service may have ended in 1992, its story lives on at the SAC and Aerospace Museum near Ashland, Nebraska, about 20 miles west of Omaha. The museum was renamed in honor of the men and women who served in the command that had its headquarters in Bellevue.
The original SAC museum was opened outside Offutt Air Force Base in 1958. After 40 years, the new museum was built and several planes were moved to the indoor facility. Having visited the outdoor museum, it was noticeable that the aircraft had suffered from the elements.
The Ashland museum was eventually renamed as the Strategic Air and Space Museum, and included a collection of space vehicles and exhibits in addition to the strategic aircraft. The new name didn’t really stick with people, who continued to refer to it as the SAC Museum. And, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of SAC veterans.
Following more than 17 years’ operating as the SAS Museum, museum leaders agreed to change the museum’s name to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. Lisa and I attended a breakfast ceremony earlier this year celebrating the name change.
A new permanent exhibit opened, honoring SAC and its veterans. The Strategic Air Command was known its alert status during the Cold War following World War II. SAC’s mission started in 1947. It included service during the Korean War, Vietnam Conflict, the Cuban Missile crisis, as well as the first Gulf conflict in the early 1990s.
When the Berlin Wall’s collapse ceremoniously marked the fall of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc nations in 1989, the Cold War was essentially over. The United States and its allies had been victorious. It also marked the beginning of the end for the Strategic Air Command.
The SAC Museum offers visitors an impressive set of aircraft to view, including several Cold War-period planes. One of my favorites – the SR-71 (the Blackbird) – greets visitors at the lobby.
The exhibit offers a variety of items on display, such as General Curtis LeMay’s jacket. The general was the first SAC leader.
A chair from SAC’s command post is in display. Most people have not seen this chair since it was in a top secured area at Offutt.
The B-52 – the BUF (ask a veteran what the initials stand for and then wash their mouths out with soap) – is a larger than life bomber that looked like it couldn’t take off as it rambled down the runway and left a trail of smoke behind it. It continues to serve the United States Air Force after about six decades as one of the best bombers money could buy. It’s been a sturdy bird that is eventually being marked for the aircraft graveyard and history annals.
Next to the B-52 stands a model of a Security Policeman, dressed in winter gear common for the “northern tier” bases in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming and northeast US. This was my job as an airman. I shiver with about minus-30 wind chill in my bones thinking about those days.
SAC veterans have a love for their former command that is difficult to understand to outsiders. Now, they have a place they can visit or even call home.
The Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum should be on the list of things when visiting eastern Nebraska. For more information, please visit www.sacmuseum.org, www.visitomaha.com, www.visitcasscounty.com or www.visitnebraska.com.