New Exhibit Honors Veterans Through Aviation

By Luke Schumacher | DFW Newsflash | March 2020

Dallas—Veterans and history enthusiasts recalled the Korean War at the Frontiers of Flight Museum as the museum unveiled its newest gallery, Early Cold War and Korean War, on Friday, Feb 28. The exhibit features aviation’s role in the period immediately after World War II and during the Korean War.

“[The exhibit] covers a period from the end of World War II, so 1945 to the late 50s,” Dan Steelman, vice president of collections and exhibits, said. “It is a time frame where the Allied forces of World War II were no longer allies.

“You saw the Soviet Union had different ideas as far as what freedom meant and what they wanted to do with their conquered territories versus what the Western Allies, France, United States, Great Britain, were planning.

“They divided Berlin into different sections, so the Western Allies had sections that they were responsible for. The Russians tried to close off all of Berlin, because they wanted to get the Western Allies out of there,” Steelman said. “The [Western Allies] had an airlift where they supplied the inhabitants of their sectors through aviation.”

Developments in aircraft technology also brought an uneasy sense of peace due to nuclear proliferation.

“We had all our bombers set to attack, and that kept us from really going to war with Russia during that time frame,” Steelman said. “We had our nuclear weapons, and we wanted that to be a deterrent to war so they were considered a force for peace.”

New aircraft also played a pivotal role in the Korean War.

“It was a very important war in terms of aviation, because that’s where we saw a lot of new technology come to the forefront,” Steelman said. “It was also one of the first wars that was fought between jet aircraft. It was totally different from that respect.”

In 1950, communist controlled North Korea attacked the free South Korea at the 38th parallel, the border between the two countries. South Korea received aid and troops from the United Nations to push back North Korea, only to have the United Nations forces pushed back when China felt their borders were threatened.

“Everybody got tired of fighting,” Steelman said. “So they signed an armistice in 1953.”

The new exhibit pays tribute to those who served.

“The troops that came home from World War II received great accolades. They were heroes,” Steelman said. “Unfortunately, the guys that fought in Korea and then later in Vietnam didn’t get that same type of welcome, and I think they’re still waiting for that. I can’t even imagine the sacrifices they had to go through in Korea and in Vietnam.

“This is our way of saying thank you, because they are just as much heroes, and they’re just as deserving of the accolades as the ‘Greatest Generation.’”

Bill Conner especially liked the airplanes included in the new exhibit. He arrived in South Korea in the fall of 1951 and served as a forward observer.

In the wintertime, it was cold. In the spring, it was muddy,” Conner said. “I was climbing up the side of the hill one time, and there was ice on the ground, and an explosion happened. I don’t know if it was our explosion or the bad guy’s explosion, but I slid off that hill down into a snow bank. It didn’t hurt me, but I had to climb that dumb hill again.

“I wish they could’ve gotten [the war] over. Maybe they will.

“That was a commitment we had made after the Second World War when they divided Korea in two that we would help protect them. The whole United Nations was going north.

“I’m surprised by the South Korean people though. It’s the younger generation. They don’t seem to comprehend that they would be here if it were not for us,” he said.