Located on the west side of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California is museum founded by Major General William Lyon. The Lyon Air Museum displays authentic and rare airplanes, automobiles, military vehicles and military motorcycles. You will also find various exhibits and memorabilia related to World War II.
Major General Lyon was a decorated member of the military and a successful businessman. During his military career of more than 35 years, he served in both World War II and the Korean War. He was the Commander of the United States Air Force Reserve Command Headquarters in Washington D.C and the Headquarters Air Force Reserve, a separate operating agency located in Georgia. In his role, he had full responsibility for the supervision of U.S. Air Force Reserve units around the world.
Sixty years ago, Major General Lyon started building homes in California for returning military personnel. Today, William Lyon Homes, Inc. is one of the largest home builders in the U.S. responsible for building more than 75,000 homes in Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.
Among the museum’s exhibits you will find the B-17 Flying Fortress, “Fuddy Duddy.” Manufactured in 1945, this plane was used as a VIP transport in the Pacific at the end of World War II. It once carried General Dwight D. Eisenhower who later became the 34th President of the United States. The museum also features the “Bird-dog,” manufactured in 1950 by the Cessna Aircraft Company, as a reconnaissance plane for the U.S. Army. It was used extensively for combat in Korea and Vietnam, often piloted by former fighter and bomber pilots of World War II. The Douglas A-26 Invader was used in more wars than any other aircraft type of its era. Americans used this attack bomber in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, while other air forces fought with it in Indo-China, Algeria, Biafra, Cuba, the Congo. The Douglas DC-3 started life as a C-47A built during World War II. Prior to its conversion to airliner configuration, it flew with the USAAF’s famed 440th Troop Carrier Group. On June 5, 1944, this aircraft was stationed at Exeter Field in England, ready to fly across the Channel with hundreds of other Dakotas. It was to transport members of the 101st Airborne over Drop Zone DELTA, to help support the D-Day invasion in Normandy at 1:40 AM, on the morning of June 6, 1944. However, the plane that drew my attention was the North American B-25 “Mitchell.” Named after General “Billy” Mitchell, this craft was used in the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo on April 18, 1942. Departing from the deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, sixteen of these planes successfully completed the first strike on Japanese soil during World War II.
After the war, the Doolittle Raiders became Air Force legends. Four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Col. James H. Doolittle assembled 16 B-25’s and trained the crew to take off the aircraft carrier, which only had 467 feet of runway. Until that point in time, no one had ever flown a bomber off an aircraft carrier. The mission was to bomb Japan and land safely in China. However a Japanese vessel spotted the Hornet before it was able to reach its target of 400 miles away from Japanese soil. Instead, the crew left the carrier a day early from a distance of 600 miles out, in order to keep the attack a surprise. Knowing there was a possibility of running out of fuel before reaching China, the 80 crew members made the decision to follow through with the mission anyway. They succeeded in hitting their targets in Japan but all of the planes crashed except for one that landed in Russia. Out of the 80 crew members 69 survived. One of the crew members, Richard Cole, celebrated his 100th birthday in June of 2016!
The museum is open daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (Closed on Thanksgiving day and Christmas day). General admission is $12 (Children aged 5 -17 are admitted for $6). Senior citizens and veterans can obtain a discounted admission ticket for $9.
You can tour the entire museum in about an hour, stopping off to carefully view all of the exhibits. There is an elevated viewing bridge which enables you to get a bird’s eye view of the planes. There is also an interactive display area where you and your little ones can climb aboard the various military vehicles and have your photos taken. Photography is permitted inside of the museum.
The B-25 Mitchell
A Japanese “Lucky Flag” brought back from New Guinea
The Pacific War
Col. James Doolittle
Bride wearing a wedding dress made from a pilot’s parachute
Web Page: http://lyonairmuseum.org/
Address: 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707
Read more about the famous Doolittle Raid and the Pacific War in “The Sun Will Rise Again,” coming Fall 2017.