The Air and Military Museum in Springfield, Mo., is a treasure trove of U.S. Military history and more
SPRINGFIELD, MO. – A little-known museum in Springfield, Mo., is the Air and Military Museum. Even longtime and lifetime residents of the area are unaware of the Kearney Street spot, which is a travesty, because it’s filled military history and the history of the United States. The museum has been in existence since 1989, when several retired service members got together to get it started.
What a visitor might not expect to find is the abundance of information and innovation of the museum’s most valuable assets, the volunteer staff. Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ron Cutter, a 30-year veteran and “T.J.” Thomas Johnson, also a vet, make the experience richer.
Ron, who was an engineer at a local television station, became enamored with the Cobra helicopter, which he saw loaded on a trailer on display at a fair. He talked with the veterans who were displaying it, was invited to join the museum and has been an installation at the museum since that day.
The men are a wealth of information about everything ranging from teletype machines to how the weapons on the Cobra were synced in order to prevent overheating.
“Kids these days need to know more about our country,” Ron said. “They don’t even know the name of our flag. They might say Old Glory, but that’s not its name. Its name is the Flag of the United States of America. They don’t teach that in school anymore.”
Ron has restored many of the displays personally. The Cobra helicopter in the museum was just a shell initially and was originally destined to be used as target practice. The museum rescued it with empty holes where gauges belonged and empty missile mounts. Ron hunted down what was needed and restored the cockpit to its original glory, complete with lights and gauges that work. He manufactured fake missiles that look like the real thing.
On this day, a Vietnam vet from Louisiana gleefully hopped in the cockpit of the Cobra to get a feel for one of the aircraft. It was a big part of the Vietnam era campaign.
As Ron guided around the museum, he ventured into the museum’s home-school classroom, where he has a large display of a working Tesla coil, which he built.
“I built my first Tesla coil when I was in the seventh grade,” Ron said. He explained the electric arcs were climbing an upside down Jacob’s ladder, a standard part of a Tesla coil.
“A real Jacob’s Ladder is wide at the bottom and narrow at the top in order to be stable… like the one in the bible. The ladder in a Tesla coil is narrow at the bottom,” he said.
The Tesla Coil experiment is used to demonstrate to visiting students how electricity is produced and why lightning causes so much damage to trees and household appliances.
Not only is the museum full of displays of real uniforms, dioramas and information, but the staff hosts home school and public school field trips, as well as birthday parties. These are not only educational, but provide hands-on opportunities for kids and adults with the chance to sit in real aircraft or experience an operational simulator. They have working teletype machines and other types of communication equipment that are also hands-on. Displays include items from WWI and II, a MASH ambulance from the the Korean War (like in the MASH television show) and of course the Cobra helicopter. They have other aircraft not located in the museum, but displayed by the old airport.
The museum offers students a reference library with a large collection of books dating back to the Revolutionary War, which can be studied at the museum.
The purpose of the museum is to inform and enlighten young people about the history and preservation of America’s Freedoms. The staff is made of volunteers passionate about America’s military history and how it has preserved our freedoms.
Students who visit with a class each receive a personalized dog tag made for them. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. There are special rates for groups of 10 or more by appointment Monday through Saturday.
The museum’s website is www.ammomuseum.com.