Where we were: Take a trip back in time today

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon White
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
(Editor's note: This is the third part in a three-part series on Malmstrom history.) 

The Malmstrom Museum provides a home to the history of Malmstrom Air Force Base and gives Airmen and the public a chance to connect with the past. 

The museum contains dioramas, static displays, model aircraft and vintage uniforms.
During a tour of the museum, visitors are first introduced to Capts. Meriweather Lewis and William Clark, who passed through what is now Malmstrom AFB in 1805. 

The next stop is a room full of scale military aircraft and weapon models donated by local community members and retirees. The display is made up of more than 200 miniature aircraft models, and includes models of aircraft previously stationed at Malmstrom. 

In the same room, documentaries on the base's current strategic deterrence mission and former air defense mission highlighting the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment, or SAGE, computer formerly housed in building 500 can be viewed. 

Information about the B-17 "Flying Fortress" training mission performed in World War II is displayed on the wall by the model aircraft display. 

A mock-up of a WWII-era barracks is the next stop on the museum tour, complete with a bunk, coal-burning stove and even a photo of actress Betty Grable tacked to the ceiling. 

"She was popular during that time," said Curt Shannon, Heritage Center director. "Guys would hang her picture up in the barracks." 

Next to the WWII barracks display is a diorama of what the hangars at Malmstrom looked like during the Lend-Lease program, where the United States provided equipment and aircraft to Russia during WWII. 

Following the barracks and Lend-Lease diorama, visitors are introduced to a B-17 machine-gunner mannequin standing next to a .50 caliber machine gun and a first-aid kit from WWII. 

The second room in the museum is home to even more Malmstrom history. 

A 37mm cannon round from a P-39 "Airacobra" stands on end in a case next to a bomber's jacket with a 490th Bombardment Squadron patch sewn on it. The 490th BS was not stationed at Malmstrom, but the 490th Missile Squadron derived its name from them nonetheless. 

More photos grace the wall, including a pay chart from 1966 where Airmen can compare how much more loot they take home every two weeks compared to their predecessors. 

An AIR-2A "GENIE" rocket is on display in the same room. The "GENIE" was the world's first nuclear-armed air defense weapon. 

In the next area of the museum, an air-defense pilot mannequin is on display wearing a brightly colored flight suit unlike the green flight suits of today. 

"Air defense pilots wore orange flight suits so the pilot could be seen from the air and rescued if they ejected," Mr. Shannon said. "Of course, they didn't wear orange flight suits anywhere else because if you ejected in Vietnam, then 'Charlie' would already have you." 

There are also several other examples of flight suits and a stuffed rooster. The rooster was the mascot of the 29th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was stationed at Malmstrom to intercept possible threats. 

"They chose the rooster because they were flyers, and they wanted a tough bird to represent them," Mr. Shannon said. "Squadrons had fighting cocks, owls, hawks, eagles and falcons as mascots." 

A static display of a '60s-era launch facility gives visitors an idea of what life was like as a missileer and portions of intercontinental ballistic missiles are also on display including a dummy warhead and guidance system. 

For Airmen who want to know what their uniform looked like throughout the history of Malmstrom, a collection of uniforms is on hand from WWII to the present. 

A Women Air Service Pilot uniform is also on display. WASPs were female pilots who delivered aircraft to Malmstrom during the Lend-Lease program, and the uniform on display can be identified by the WASP insignia affixed to it. 

The air park outside the building encompasses a wide-array of Malmstrom vehicles, equipment and memorabilia. 

A totem pole stands toward the beginning of the path that winds through the park. The totem pole was given to Malmstrom and the citizens of Great Falls, Mont., in 1982 in appreciation for 25 years of cooperation, hospitality and friendship while working with North American Aerospace Defense Command at Malmstrom. The paint has weathered off the totem pole, but will not be repainted. 

"If you paint a totem pole, it covers up the spirits," Mr. Shannon said. "When you see other old totem poles, they won't have paint on them either." 

Also located at the park is a B-25J "Mitchell Bomber" painted to resemble a bomber from the 490th BS. More than 730 B-25s passed through Malmstrom during the Lend-Lease program. 

A T-33 "Shooting Star" like the one piloted by Col. Einar Malmstrom, former vice wing commander and to whom the base is named after, is on display as well as a F-101B "Voodoo," a EB-57B/E "Canberra," a 1947 Ford painted to resemble a 1942 staff car, an F- 84F "Thunderstreak," KC-97G "Stratotanker," a UH-1N "Huey" helicopter, an LGM-30G Minuteman III missile, a missile transport vehicle, an AN/MPS-9 radar trailer and a Dodge ambulance and Peacekeeper armored vehicle. 

Entrance to the museum is free and open to the public. 

To learn more about the museum, or to have a first-hand look at the displays and to speak with the museum attendants in person, people are encouraged to visit. 

The museum is open Monday to Friday from10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call for weekend and holiday hours at 731- 2705. 

Contact the museum at the above number for information or special tours. All non-military members desiring to visit the museum should inquire at the Visitor Control Center located at the 2nd Avenue N. gate.