US Freedom Pavilion Boeing Center Opens to the Public

"My Gal Sal" being hoisted into place in the WWII Museum's atrium.
“My Gal Sal” being hoisted into place in the WWII Museum’s atrium.

The National WWII Museum’s stunning modernistic glass and steel “US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center” opened to the public on January 13th to capacity crowds eager to see the new $35 million home of the museum’s impressive collection of mid-century warbirds.

Several newly-restored aircraft are suspended in the museum’s vast atrium, the most dramatic being the Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-9032 “My Gal Sal.” Recovered from Greenland in the summer of 1995, fifty-three years after its June 1942 forced-landing on the ice in bad weather during a ferry run to the United Kingdom, this Flying Fortress is the only restored “E” version on display anywhere. Restoration on the B17E began in 2000 with its previous owner, the Ultimate Sacrifice group, based at the Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport, where a team of 23 volunteers logged more than 80,000 man-hours on the project.

Also on display is a Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless, BuNo 06508, operated by Marine Scout Bombing Squadrons (VMSB) 141 and 132, part of the “Cactus Air Force” that flew from Henderson Field on Guadalcanal on the Solomon Islands from August to December 1942. In the spring of 1943 it was assigned to Navy Bombing Squadron 10 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise before being returned to the US for use as a trainer at Naval Air Station in Glenview, Illinois. In November 1944, 06508 ditched into Lake Michigan during a training flight and stayed submerged at the lake bottom for nearly 50 years before it was brought back to the surface by the US Navy and restored at the National Museum of the US Navy in Pensacola, Florida. 06508 is now on long-term loan to the WWII Museum.

A late production Grumman TBM Avenger that was restored by Flyboys Aeroworks of San Diego hangs near a Vought F4U Corsair, restored by the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation in Dallas, Texas, and painted in the livery of Major Gregory “Pappy” Boyington’s VMF-214 of “Black Sheep” Squadron fame. Flyboys Aeroworks also restored a North American B-25J Mitchell in the markings of the 490th Bombardment Squadron also known as the “Burma Bridge Busters”.

The museum’s new pavilion is a fitting tribute to the 16 million men and women who served in the military as well as the countless millions of civilians who labored tirelessly during the years of World War II, when the freedom of the world hung in the balance.

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