You're Invited: Boyertown's General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Force Museum Celebrates Second Anniversary
by Jane Stahl
The General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Force Museum celebrates its second anniversary and invites the community to its second “birthday party” on October 28, 2023, promising cake as part of the celebration. A preview party for donors was held recently to showcase the museum and its progress.
*Editor's note: Some of the following photos of the displays in the museum were taken earlier. As the museum continues to evolve, the displays or their placements may have changed or no longer be available as shown.
Two years ago, the General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Force Museum opened after five years of planning and three years of preparation. Today it offers a premier experience and a wide range of information about a Boyertown young man who came to command the Eighth Air Force, the North African Air Force, the U.S. Strategic Air Force in Europe, and all American Air Forces in the Pacific after the war was won in Europe.
General Spaatz trained most of the American pilots who fought in WWI, pioneered air-to-air refueling, and commanded the Strategic Air Forces of WWII that changed how war was fought. He became the first Chief of Staff of the new US Air Force in 1947.
General Spaatz was a very big deal, and he was from Boyertown, PA.
And so, retired Colonel Keith Seiwell, USMC, the Museum’s CEO, visited Boyertown looking for the museum dedicated to General Spaatz, certain there would be one. When he didn’t find one, he decided one needed to be established. The museum features a bust of the General, a wall mural time line of his life and accomplishments, even talking portraits that tell the story of the young man from Boyertown who, through twists and turns of a young man's life, became a national figure.
But Colonel Seiwell was determined to make the learning experience an interactive, immersive experience in which visitors would participate by living in history—guiding them through preparation for flying and surviving flight and combat.
His vision included simulated pre-flight briefings, allowing visitors to wear gear and equipment, pilot a bomber, and act as gunners and bombardiers. Recently the museum was awarded the 2023 Reader’s Choice Award for Best Escape Room by the Mercury. Colonel Seiwell’s vision became reality.
But starting with 6,000 feet of all-but empty space, the job to meet the Colonel’s vision was daunting. The space echoed, needed cleaning and renovation, just at the time COVID emerged.
Today, 10 rooms, filled with authentic artifacts from WWII, feature five interactive experiences include the Mission Briefing Room to learn about the target of the day; “Gear Up” to try on the type of equipment used by crews on their missions; “Chow Hall” for a cup of coffee before boarding your B-17 bomber; Mission Room for a simulated mission; and “Bombs Away” targeted at enemy fighters at 12 o’clock high.
And suppose you're captured. There's an escape experience, and a wardrobe, that participants won't easily forget.
World War II Experience:
The museum's WWII experience includes displays featuring each branch of the service, Boyertown veterans and citizens--and celebrities--whose efforts and service earned them honorary status. In Boyertown, more than 500 homes had family members at war—mostly on the Home Front—who were employed or contributed to the war effort.
The exhibit—“The Home Front 1940-1945: Boyertown Goes to War”-- debuted in May 2023 and will close the end of October. The display creates the feel of everyday life by presenting a typical kitchen in small-town America and presents how the American people’s lives were changed, how they stepped up in every way—sacrificing and rationing, for example—to support the war effort on a daily basis. A wall of Sweetheart pillow cases, a favorite gift sent homefrom soldiers on the front, is included.
Members of Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops were recruited to hold metal and scrap drives. A candy store display exemplifies the confection industry’s participation in supporting the soldiers. The community converted local industries to produce military ambulances, special purpose vehicles, and headlights for jeeps, for example.
The volunteers look forward to showing you around this first-class museum and hope you'll participate in the many opportunities to participate and to learn more about hometown hero General Carl A. Spaatz and the men and women who offered their lives when the country called.
The General Carl Spaatz USAAF Museum is located at 10 General Spaatz Ave, Boyertown, PA 19512. Museum Hours are Thursday through Sunday 10am to 4pm.
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