Honoring Those Who Took to the Skies

With the movie Dunkirk making a splash at theaters this summer, many have been reminded of the important role that pilots played in World War II. But did you know there’s a special place here in Colorado Springs that honors that history?

Located on the flight line of the Colorado Springs airport sits the National Museum of World War II Aviation. Housed inside a hangar, this privately-owned exhibit features a impressive collection of artifacts, following our nation’s war story from Pearl Harbor to the skies over Normandy to the bombing of Nagasaki — and everything in between. The real showcase items though are the airplanes, beautifully restored to pristine condition.

For those who are interested in history or aviation, the museum offers a docent-led tour that is simply not to be missed. It begins with a short orientation in the briefing room that lays out an overview of the war. The tour then takes you past various aircraft each with its own story. Your docent will teach you not only about the planes, but how they were instrumental to winning the war. Aircraft currently on display include the P-38 Lightning, L-5B Sentinel, TBM Avenger and B-25 Mitchell. Additional display cases and artifacts tell the bigger story, but also illuminate the personal impact of combat both to those on the war front and those back at home. There is even a piece of the USS Arizona, recovered from its watery grave, with a small patch you can actually touch.

For those who are interested in the iconic nose art of this era, you won’t be disappointed either.

You’ll even learn how our military used to train its pilots with a demonstration of this flight simulator.

The tour then continues at an adjacent hangar owned by WestPac Restorations, a world-class airplane restoration faculty. You’ll learn how they can take a mere carcass of a plane and bring it back to its original splendor. Each plane is painstakingly restored by hand with great precision and accuracy.

For those who enjoy honoring our nation’s greatest generation and the sacrifices they made to ensure freedom, this museum should be at the top of your list to visit. As we lose these heroes at a quickening pace, it’s so important that we hold them tight in our national memory. This museum will help you do that, and you’ll leave soaring with patriotic pride for the way these Americans changed the course of history.

The museum is open to the public Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I highly recommend the docent-led tour for adults, which will provide context for all the aircraft and displays. That tour lasts approximately two hours. For those with children ages 6-13, there is a special summer youth tour on Saturdays at 11 am. For those with younger children, I’d recommend the self-guided tour so you can see the planes at your own pace.

For more information, please visit http://www.worldwariiaviation.org.

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