During the Cold War, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics faced off in a global stalemate, each vying to limit the reach and influence of the other. Our militaries engaged in an enormous buildup of ships, tanks, airplanes, and other weapons, totaling over $13.1 trillion dollars, according to the
Center for Defense Information at CUNY Brooklyn. As the Cold War ended and many of the weapons from the 1950s – 1990s became obsolete, and most were recycled, repurposed, or resold to other nations. However, some of the items would have a second life, living on in museums to keep alive the story of a half-century of conflict that kept the world at the edge of nuclear conflagration.
From strolling across the top deck of the
Intrepid Museum in New York City, to wandering the cavernous hangar of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia, to learning about the lives of the citizen soldiers of New Jersey at the National Guard Militia Museum of NJ, several of my road trip adventures have taken me to military history museums around the United States. On a recent weekend in mid-January, I got in my Accord and headed to a museum less than an hour from my home that I happened to discover while searching online for “hidden gems” of the Garden State. The Air Victory Museum in Lumberton, located at the South Jersey Regional Airport, was well worth the visit.
So come with, then, on this historical road trip adventure. Along the way, we’ll also return to the Jersey shore, eat some great food, visit a former research center for Bell Telephone, and share some automotive updates.
The Air Victory Museum
The Air Victory Museum in Lumberton, NJ, is located about a half hour east of Philadelphia, and about ninety minutes southwest of New York City.
With my wife out of town to attend a conference, this would be a rare solo trip for your humble blog author. I set off mid-morning, under blue skies with scattered clouds – a welcome change from the wind, rain, and overcast skies of the previous few days.
About an hour after leaving my house, I arrived at the South Jersey Regional Airport, a public use airport that supports a fleet of primarily small, single-engine planes. The Air Victory Museum, located in a hangar beside one of the taxiways, tells the story of US military aviation from the end of World War II until the present day.
After paying a nominal entrance fee of $10 and having a friendly chat with a volunteer staffing the front desk, I entered the museum and was immediately struck by how much gear was crammed into the museum.
Near the entrance is a display on the equipment and attire of military pilots, most of which had detailed descriptions of the life stories of their former owners. The bomber jacket in the glass case was once worn by Sergeant Peter Bush from Door County, Wisconsin, who operated the tail gun on a B-24 Liberator during World War II. Peter and the rest of his flight crew served together for 50 missions, a feat of survival for one of the most dangerous occupations during the war.
The first aircraft on the tour is this F-86 Sabre Dog, a Korean War-era fighter jet that helped the United States establish air superiority during that conflict.
Looking more like a ride for small children at the local mall, this GAT-1 flight simulator, built from the 1960s to the 1980s, is still in use at some flight schools for teaching emergency procedures.
This A-7 Corsair II was in mint condition. A Vietnam War-era attack jet, this plane was designed to launch from aircraft carriers and bomb enemy targets. If you look at the front of the aircraft, the jet engine intake sits low, chest-level to an adult. Deck crew members on aircraft carriers learned to be extra careful around what was basically a jet-engine vacuum cleaner.
The Blue Angels, the US Navy’s aerobatic performance squadron, was represented by this A-4 Skyhawk, still wearing its livery. Since their formation in 1946, the Blue Angels have performed for over half a billion spectators (via Wikipedia).
The museum also has a number of aircraft engines on display, including this Jumo-004, the engine that powered the Messerschmitt Me-262 fighter, the first jet fighter in the world. Upon the defeat of Nazi Germany, numerous Me-262s were captured by Allied soldiers, the equipment thoroughly dissected by American scientists and then donated to museums when no longer needed.
The museum has the fuselage and engine (not pictured) of the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the first jet fighter used by the United States. It was developed during World War II, and initial flights of this brand new technology proved dangerous, as several pilots died or suffered serious injury during testing. Renowned pilot Chuck Yeager, later known for breaking the speed of sound in an aircraft, proved his mettle as a test pilot by flying over 500 hours in this unproven beast (via Wikipedia).
Unlike many museums that have their aircraft buttoned up, the Air Victory Museum has a more welcoming approach to visitors. Numerous planes have their cockpits open so you can peek inside. The P-80 exhibit, however, is even more impressive – the museum invites you to climb in! As I clambered aboard, I was struck by how small the cockpit felt. At 5’9″, I’m hardly a giant, but I felt positively squished in the tiny space.
The museum was awesome, but truly, I came to see one specific jet. As cool as it looked, I breezed past this F-4 Phantom II, a mainstay of the US Navy during the Vietnam War. I had something more important on my agenda…
There, lurking in the back of the hangar, was the jet I had driven an hour to see…
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the hero of my childhood. Designed to sweep the skies of Soviet jets and bombers, the Tomcat was agile and blisteringly fast. When equipped with the AIM-54 Phoenix missile, it could attack enemy aircraft over one hundred miles away.
Each time I see a Tomcat, I’m always impressed with just how singularly massive the plane is. To land this beast on an aircraft carrier, a pilot has to snag one of four arrestor cables on the deck with the jet’s tailhook (the striped bar in the photo). The pilot has to position the jet perfectly over the deck to grab a one inch diameter metal cable with a hook that the pilot can’t see. All of this is happening at 150 mph. That’s skill.
The museum had the Tomcat’s cockpit open, so I was able to climb a ladder and peer in, imainging myself for a moment to be like Lt. Maverick from Top Gun.
For such a small space, the museum is positively crammed with exhibits!
After having my fill of the exhibits inside, I wandered outside to check out a few more planes, such as this E-2 Hawkeye. Despite carrying no weapons of its own, the Hawkeye is perhaps the most dangerous airplane on an aircraft carrier. The giant disc at the top of the plane is a radar, capable of controlling hundreds of miles of airspace, directing fighters and bombers to their targets, and letting the aircraft carrier know of threats well before they ever get within striking distance.
The museum also has this Sea Stallion transport helicopter on display as well. Left to the elements, the helicopter has certainly seen better days. The Air Victory Museum is volunteer led and staffed, and so welcomes donations, as well as volunteer labor, to keep their aircraft in good shape for visitors.
I originally had plans to check out a local brewery for lunch, but then, across the parking lot from the museum, I spotted a small cafe. Intrigued, I looked up reviews on Yelp – it was rated better than the brewery, so I wandered over to check it out.
Holding only about ten tables, the Runway Cafe was intimate and thoroughly charming. From the plane propeller, to old vintage ads for airplane travel, it was decorated well, the service was friendly and attentive…
…and the food was terrific! I ordered a grilled chicken wrap (served with lettuce, tomato, peppers, jalapeños, and honey mustard dressing), which hit the spot. The ingredients were fresh and it was super tasty. I resisted the urge to try the fries (although a neighboring table had some and they looked fantastic), but the chips and pickle were a nice addition. I would absolutely come back to the Runway Cafe for lunch the next time I’m in the area!
Before starting my drive home, I positioned my Accord for its mandatory glamour shoot near the E-2 Hawkeye. Of course.
An hour later, my Accord was back in the garage. Although I have put less mileage on it over the past several months, the 209,000 mile mark is getting closer and closer. Onward! An Unexpected Adventure
On a recent Sunday morning, my wife and I headed to Asbury Park, for breakfast at Toast City Diner. Longtime readers will recognize Toast as one of our favorite eateries at the NJ shore.
I was eager for my usual: the gluten-free Firebird Waffle! And then… disaster struck. The waiter apologized that there was problems with the batter, and they would not be serving gluten free waffles or pancakes that morning. I changed to plan B: a breakfast sandwich (egg, pork roll, and cheese) with a side of fruit. It was tasty, although not quite as satisfying as the waffle. My wife, however, was thrilled with her order: corned beef hash with eggs and gluten free toast. Pro tip: If you’re at Toast, the corned beef hash is definitely worth a try.
After breakfast, we headed over to the Asbury Park boardwalk for a quick walk. We did, of course, swing by the convention center. “Our true enemy has…” ah, heck, never mind. You know the quote!
As always, we took a few minutes to check out some of the public art on display.
Before leaving Asbury, we swung by The Stone Pony, and although it’s usually my Accord having its glamour shot taken in front of this historic music venue, this time it was our Jeep’s turn.
Before heading home, we drove to the town of Holmdel, NJ. Our trip there was part of an upcoming blog post (stay tuned!). You’ll have to wait for a future write-up to learn more about that giant structure.
Bell Works, in Holmdel, was once home to Bell Labs, a research facility for Bell Telephone (later AT&T). Bell Labs innovations include the UNIX operating system (which forms the basis for, among other things, modern-day Macs, iPhone, and iPads), lasers, the solar cell, videoconferencing, the transistor, the digital cell phone, and much more.
Bell Labs departed the site in 2006. However, the town of Holmdel engaged in extensive redevelopment, turning it into both an office park for technology startup companies, as well as a large public space, filled with restaurants, salons, spas, and other businesses. No special permission is needed to show up – you can stop by to stroll through the enormous building, grab some lunch, try your luck in an escape room, bring your children for the large kid-friendly play area, or just sit, sip a coffee, and work.
On the outside of Bell Labs, we saw at least thirty vultures perched atop the building. It was like something out of a Hitchcock movie.
As we were about to leave, my wife spotted this red-tailed hawk sitting on a tree. It made for a cool photo subject… until he got bored of posing and flew off. Automotive Updates
Before closing, I wanted to share some news about the vehicles in our garage, as well as an update on a friend’s high mileage quest.
Our Midwest adventure over the holidays was not completely without incident. While driving through the worst of Winter Storm Elliott in Indiana, a tractor trail threw up a large stone, which put a significant chip into our Jeep’s windshield. We called Safelite Auto Glass, which sent a “mobile glass shop” to our home.
The technician took a look and informed me that he could fix the chip so that it would not develop into a larger crack. The windshield did not need to be replaced. It was a fascinating process to watch – he filled the chip with an epoxy, and then used this device to refinish the spot repair. In the end, you can hardly tell that anything went wrong!
Grace was also due for a renewal of her NJ vehicle inspection… a test she passed with flying colors, despite being almost 9 years old with 95,000 miles on the odometer. Onward!!
Meanwhile, it was time for a good winter cleaning for my Accord. A little wax, some interior cleaner, a dab of leather conditioner, some elbow grease, and all was well once again. 11 years? 208,000 miles? Still looks like a new car to me.
Meanwhile, my friend Justin’s quest to reach a million miles with his 2003 Honda Accord V6 coupe is approaching its conclusion – less than 17,000 miles to go now! C’mon, Justin, you got this! Wrapping Up
For such a geographically small state, I am constantly amazed at the number of new places I find to visit in New Jersey. The Air Victory Museum is well worth the stop if you are in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Admission costs $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and US military, $5 for children ages 6-18, and is free for kids age 5 and younger. The museum is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.
And as always, thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.
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5 thoughts on “Wings of Victory.”
The F-14 is, and will always be, my favorite jet. I was a young boy when Top Gun came out. I was completely hooked. Seeing that movie as well as my dad’s Naval service led me to join.
The most current version of the Hawkeye is the E-2D. Those variants have 8-blade props. The Hawkeye’s radar effectively doubles the range of airspace the carrier can see providing over the horizon coverage. We train all of the future Hawkeye pilots in the T-45C after they complete multi engine training in the T-44.
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Same here – the F-14 was the hero jet of my childhood. The F-15 was pretty cool, too, but nothing was as cool as a Tomcat!
The E-2 is a really cool plane – I find it amazing that something so big can still land on a carrier deck. It’s interesting that the training regimen goes propeller trainer > jet trainer > propeller E-2. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go read more about the T-45 now!
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There’s a certain skill set reqd to fly multiengine like the E-2 so the students learn that in the T-44 which is commonly known as a King Air to civilians. Since the E-2 is carrier based, they also have to train in the T-45 because that’s the Navy’s carrier capable training jet. Once they finish the T-45 training, they’ll get their wings and move on to the Fleet Replacement Squadron to then train in the E-2.
It can take around three years or more to train up an E-2 or jet pilot from the time they enter flight training to arriving in their fleet squadron and actually be deployable.
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Nice tours and it looks like good food too!!
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The food was GREAT! I think you’d really like the Runway Cafe!