Just outside of Grissom Joint Reserve Base in Indiana is the Grissom Air Museum and if you’re in the area or just passing through, this is a great place to plan a pit stop on your summer road trip. The museum is packed with U.S. Air Force history and if you’ve ever served as an airman, or if you’re just an aviation buff, visiting the museum will not disappoint.
The museum has a multitude of exhibits indoors which include a mock U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds' F-16 cockpit, and an authentic F-4 cockpit (front and rear seats). There is also a Huey helicopter and an A-4 Skyhawk simulator. As long as you’re capable of getting in and out of these displays, anyone can climb in and feel what it is like to be behind the stick of these old warbirds.
If there is a young pilot wannabe in your family, they will love sitting in the cockpit and flipping the switches and yanking on the yoke. Make sure to have your camera handy.
The inside of the museum has a lot of displays devoted to Grissom’s Cold War mission and the exhibits help visitors understand the role that the Grissom Air Force Base played in the Cold War. Did you know, for example, that a B-58 Hustler loaded with nuclear weapons skidded off the runway at Grissom in 1964 and caught fire causing what the Air Force calls a "Broken Arrow?"
Grissom was originally established as Bunker Hill Naval Air Station in 1942, but in 1954 it became Bunker Hill Air Force Base. Later in 1968, it was renamed Grissom Air Force Base after Indiana native and U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Gus Grissom was killed in a launchpad fire on Apollo 1. Grissom was the second American to go into space.
The base closed in 1994 and became a joint reserve base. Today, it is home to the Air Force Reserve’s 434th Air Refueling Wing as well as other Marine Corps Reserve and Army Reserve units.
Outside of the museum there is a wide array of military aircraft from different military branches. On display you can find an A-10 Thunderbolt II, a B-25 Mitchell, C-47 Skytrain, F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat, EC-135 Stratotanker, F-84 Thunderstreak, and a really long list of other aircraft, including helicopters. Each display has a placard with a short description of the aircraft and its history.
We were particularly interested in the A-10 which at one point years ago had my father-in-law’s name on it. He died when his A-10 crashed during a training flight near Grissom.
If you’re a former Air Force security policeman (Security Forces), climb up the security tower. Back in the day, security SPs (back when security and law enforcement were two different fields) used to keep a vigilant eye on priority aircraft from towers similar to the one at the museum. The tower overlooks all of the aircraft on static display almost as if it is keeping watch over all the old warbirds.
When I visited the Grissom Museum I saw a young family picnicking in the shade under a parked aircraft in front of the museum. It was a nice spot to spread a blanket and enjoy the shade and lush grass.
If you are a history, military or aviation buff, you can easily spend a couple of
hours just on the inside of the museum alone. Outside, it will take you at least an hour to walk the plane yard if you are into historical aircraft. I recommend getting there early in the summer as it can get pretty toasty and the cooler morning temps make strolling the outside aircraft displays much more fun.
Admission to the Grissom Museum is $7 per person and $6 for military personnel, including retirees. As you finish your visit, don’t forget to visit the museum’s great gift shop and stock up on some cool aviation and Air Force themed souvenirs.
This is a great little museum which is a must-see if you happen to be in the area around Grissom Joint Reserve Base. If you’re lucky, as I was, you just might catch some A-10s flying overhead and spend a few minutes watching them fly their patterns around the airfield.
Steve Alvarez is the author of Selling War A Critical Look at the Military's PR Machine published by Potomac Books. Photos courtesy Grissom Air Museum.