My husband Bob was a Naval aviator, so when we travel, we often go to museums with an airplane theme. Some you may have heard of (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola) but there are probably some you have not (Barksdale Global Power Museum, Bossier City, LA, Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Lexington Park, MD and the Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham AL).
During the winters of 2005 and 2006 after we stopped going south on our boat, we traveled south by car, visiting children and grandchildren. We took advantage of the Space Available condo system that is available to active duty military and retirees and we can also stay on the military base in the Inns and Lodges. Our first visit to Eglin AFB was 2005 when we were spending a week at a in Fort Walton Beach in a Space/A condo
The following winter we spent January 24th at the White Sands Inn which is the temporary quarters on Eglin AFB. We were on our way to Pensacola, but we couldn't get a room there until January 25th
I had phoned Eglin and asked them how to get to where we were to check in. She said to take FL 85 south from Crestview to the East Gate. Bob however missed the turn that FL 85 made, and went on down FL 123 to where FL 85 joined up again at which point we were at the West Gate. We asked the sentry and he told us to go up 3 lights and turn left.
When we checked in we were told that the actual room was back by the West Gate just past the hospital. The room had a full kitchen, with bar stools by the counter between that and the living room, and a bedroom and bathroom. The ceiling fan was on and it was quite hot inside. The room was $38.50/night. There wasn't a lot of parking.
I found that there was a museum on the base (but accessible -located outside the main gates on Hwy 85 and and State Road 189 and only 7 miles noth of Fort Walton Beach) which is called the United States Air Force Armament Museum. Since it is outside the gates, you don't have to go through security, and it is FREE. The 32 minute movie "Arming the Air Force," a history of Eglin Air Force Base and its role in the development of armament, is shown continuously
You can see from the name (Air Force Armament Museum) that it isn't just a museum for airplanes, but they have plenty of them.
There were four planes inside the building
- P-51 Mustang and
- P-47 - World War II
- F-80 Shooting Star - Korean War
- F-105 - Vietnam War
and over 25 more outside - SR-71 Blackbird, A-10, B-17, C-47, B-25, T-33, F-4, F-15, F-16, F-84, F-86, F-89, F-100, F-101, F-104, F-111, RB-47, RF-4, O-2, C-131, B-52, B-57.
But this was a weapons museum (weapons of the Air Force include planes). They had a whole display of guns (a Browning automatic training rifle was way bigger than I would have thought),
and a replica of the Fat Man - the second nuclear bomb used in WWII in Japan.
They had a model of the Pratt Whitney R4360 engine which you could turn on and see it running, a cockpit of a Warthog trainer, and a model aircraft exhibit.
My big moment was asking them why the ABCCC (Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center) Exhibit Entrance was labeled "Door Closed" and "Do Not Enter", so that people were forced to go in the exit door, which was open.
(It was because no-one had opened the door - if the door was open, the signs on the door wouldn't be visible). This was a mock-up of the inside of a plane with a whole bunch of desks for people to sit and do navigation etc
We spent about a hour at the museum, and then Bob walked out and looked at the big black plane (which was so big it was hard to get it all in one picture).
Bob told me that this plane was the Blackbird which was a high altitude very fast spy plane. He said they had them on Okinawa, and that when they came out in about October 1966 they were top secret and no one was supposed to know about them. But in December, the man next door to us in Key West had a model of one to give his little boy for Xmas.
Bob wanted to see where the gate that was by the hospital led to, so that's the gate that we exited when we went out to dinner. We found ourselves in Shalimar.
Originally, Shalimar was called Port Dixie and it was planned to be a deep water port with a railroad terminal. But the Corps of Engineers decided against the dredging. When Clifford Meigs started the town in the early 1940s, he developed a community of 160 houses to be used as housing for military officers.
We ate at a restaurant called Giuseppi's Wharf which was across from the McDonalds. I had picked up a paper menu at the front desk as we came in, and it said that there were early bird specials for $10.95. So we asked our waitress and she said we'd have to have the order in the kitchen before six. Since it was about 5:50, I quickly ordered the grouper (broiled) and Bob ordered the chicken. I got the salad bar with mine for an extra $1.99 and Bob had the cole slaw.
The waitress got mixed up and gave us both the grouper. Bob didn't want to make trouble so he just ate his grouper, which was very good and came with two hush puppies in addition to the baked potato. Afterwards, Bob got the Key Lime pie and I got a French Silk pie (both $4.50). The total before tip was $34.87