LINCOLN, Neb. — Aviation buffs are trying to establish a museum that would chronicle Nebraska’s role in the history of American aviation and focus on what once was Lincoln Air Force Base.
Lincoln native Rob Branting told the Lincoln Journal Star that the group is trying to form a nonprofit that would allow pursuit of grants to fund the museum. He also said the Lincoln Airport Authority has expressed interest in leasing a former base chapel to house the artifacts.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but we're seeing a lot of interest from the Lincoln area aviation fans," Branting said. "Now we just have to start the process of finding donors, getting grants and putting a board together."
The base was first known as Lincoln Army Airfield when it was built in 1942 and served as an airfield and mechanic training school during World War II. The Nebraska State Historical Society said the airfield later served as a Navy Reserve Training Station and Nebraska Air National Guard base before finally becoming the Lincoln Municipal Airport.
The Air Force then turned it into Lincoln Air Force Base, and assigned the 307th Bombardment Wing there following the Korean War.
The group’s B-29s were replaced with swept-winged B-47 Stratojets, the first jet-propelled aircraft assigned to the wing, and it was then designated as the 307th Bombardment Wing (Medium), according to the official history of the wing. On July 1, 1955, the 307th was placed under the command of the Eighth Air Force. There were 43 B-47s and 21 KC-97 type aircraft assigned to the wing.
While at Lincoln, the 307th functioned as a Combat Ready Unit, conducting combat training missions and maintaining an alert force commitment, both at Lincoln and overseas bases, until its deactivation on March 25, 1965.
In July 1956, the wing’s B-47s deployed to RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, and took part in several operations and exercises. During the first leg of their redeployment to Lincoln, 50 wing personnel were lost when a Navy C-118 with Air Transport Squadron 6, assigned to the Military Air Transport Service, disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean, about 150 miles north of the Azores. Nine Navy crewmembers were also lost.
A week-long air/sea search only found two empty life rafts found off the northwest coast of Spain. A stunned base attended a memorial service in Lincoln on Oct. 29.
The 307th Bombardment Wing, along with other units at Lincoln AFB, was realigned under the Strategic Air Command’s Second Air Force, headquartered at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, on Jan. 1, 1959.
In 1963, the city of Lincoln and the Strategic Air Command agreed to share the base facilities. Lincoln Air Force Base was permanently deactivated three years later.
Branting said the museum idea came to him he was 15 years old and he began collecting photos and videos.
“I’ve always been an aviation fan, and there’s just not a lot of Lincoln-centric aviation history being shown,” said Branting, who works at the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile State Historic Site near Cooperstown, North Dakota.