Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ellsworth Air Force Base and the South Dakota Air Force and Space Museum

Being frugal, Brad and I stopped at Ellsworth AFB to work out at the gym, visit the library to use their wi fi, and to stock up the groceries for Yellowstone. We selected soups that we could warm over the propane burner, rolls to help clean out our bowls, and carb-loaded snacks to replenish us after trail hiking. Before setting off for Buffalo, WY, we paid a visit to the South Dakota Air Force and Space Museum. Many of the gems outside were on loan from collections at either the Smithsonian or the Air Force Museum itself. Inside, there was a marvelous, detailed exhibit on the Minuteman Missiles nearby. A far cry from the lack of signage on the interstate, this collection was a full history lesson about the Cold War climate and the US response’s local impact. Put my dad in there as a “Ranger Talk at 2:30 PM” would render the exhibit complete.

As evident in the displays of newspaper articles and photos, the local town was/is very proud of its supporting role as hosts to the AFB. Intimate exhibits about the USAF rescuing townsfolk during a flood to the dog who became the base’s mascot were heartfelt and filled with pride. On a personal note, I loved the exhibit on the the Berlin Wall and the Candy Man, Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen. During WWII and the Soviet’s erection of the Berlin Wall, one pilot responded by dropping candy to children. Aptly, he became known as the Candy Man and the German’s wrote a song for him. During a Bob Hope USO tour, he traveled to Berlin for a special ceremony. I was one of the children selected for a choir to sing the English translation of Candy Man. As an eight year old, I remember a frail man with tears in his eyes, shaking my hand and thanking me for singing “so pretty.”

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