Today, To (pronounced toe) and I, rode our motorcycles out to the Lyon Air Museum, located on the West Side of the Santa Ana John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, California.
To was riding part of his 50 motorcycle collection; a 1984 Honda CB750 and I was on my 2020 BMW GSA 1250. When we arrived at the Lyons Air Museum we nearly had the place to ourselves. That is probably why the five docents we met, were all sitting around a round table. Let me introduce Dan H. Oldewage, to you, born in 1925, a former POW, and Tech Sergeant in the United States Army Air Force.
The B-24 Liberator aircraft that Dan flew in during WWII was first introduced in 1941; his job was to (man) the B-24’s nose turret, while the plane flew at a wopping top speed of 300+ mph.
A nose turret gunner is a crewman on the plane dedicated to protecting the forward arc of the plane, with an aimable machine gun for protection against other aircraft. Dan had all the fire power he needed in the form of twin .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns, mounted on the nose part of the aircraft.
The Liberator, as the plane was also known, had a tail gunner, whose job it was to cover the upper rear arc of fire on the plane. The Liberator carried five enlisted men; the top turret gunner, the radio operator/waist gunner, a second waist gunner, a ball turret gunner and a tail turret gunner. Dan survived WWII but, was subsequently shot down on April 12, 1951, in Korea and held as a POW for two and a half years by the Chinese and North Koreans.
What caught my attention when we first entered this amazing museum, that is worth a visit, as I said earlier, are the five docents. We caught them on a break, sitting around a round table discussing, what else, military history.
And then I hear David C. Wensley, (Cold War Docent History Expert) mention Vietnam. My ears suddenly perked up and I quickly call To over, introduce him to the group, and then stand back.
In no time at all, a lively discussion ensued about the war, the battle, the people. Look up the battle of Dien Bien Phu for additional reading.
To, if you haven’t yet figured out is a Vietnamese American. He was on hand to witness the Fall of Saigon by the Viet Cong on 30 April 1975. This event finally ended the Vietnam war that began in 1954.
A 19 year war seems like a very long war, doesn’t it? Considering World War II (WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that only lasted from 1939 to 1945.
Want to know what the most deadliest job in the Vietnam war was? A job similar to what Dan had back in WWII on his Liberator airplane.
The chopper machine gunner was the deadliest job in Vietnam. This soldier was required to fire while manning an exposed machine gun every time the chopper came in and flew back out. That infamous picture of a helicopter atop the roof of the South Vietnam embassy, whereby a CIA officer is helping evacuees up a ladder and onto an Air America helicopter at 22 Gia Long Street. To was one of those evacuees. Operation Frequent Wind became the final phase where more than 7,000 American and Vietnamese civilians were evacuated by helicopter from various parts of Saigon.
And then we wondered around noticing the nose art on a particular Army plane that much resembled my BMW Motorcycles appearance.
The Shelby Cobra car was another museum exhibit we came to see. This car and others round out the military hardware all around.
And of course no outing would be complete without a visit to a local restaurant. To chose Little Saigon, in Westminster where we had visited the Ngoc Suong Restaurant and ordered grilled catfish and Thai coffee.
“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.” – Herodotus
One thought on “WWII/Vietnam/Lyons Air Museum Ride”
Great story Ralph….I would love to go to that museum sometime with you.
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