West Houston Airport: World War II Museum Exhibits and Commemorative Air Force Events
West Houston Airport and WWII Museum
In addition to the usual hangars housing small aircraft and paved runway, the west Houston airport is the site of a fascinating number of WWII museum exhibits.
My husband and I recently toured the small but fascinating local museum when we decided to attend an exhibition of World War 2 airplanes and those from the Commemorative Air Force. They put on an interactive flying exhibit at least once annually. It was interactive in the sense that the aircraft were not only on display, but one could actually climb on board some of these old warbirds. For a stipend, one could even go for a ride in selected ones of them.
While there, we discovered this jewel of a museum. People can see all kinds of World War 2 exhibits ranging from the smallest items like victory stamps to full-sized uniforms and more. Some of the more extensive exhibits like airplane engines, a jeep, and other artifacts are located around the perimeter of the large metal hangar building. A small enclosed room holds the smaller memorabilia pieces from World War 2 in a series of glassed-in cases.
These exhibits come from different places. Still, the common bond is that they all had something to do with the war effort. Whether it was actual clothing worn, maps, flight instructions, or how to identify enemy aircraft by their physical shapes, it is on display here. Most of the things shown are authentic except for a few posters and a few model airplanes.
Yankee Doodle Gals
During World War 2, women did not typically serve in war zones. But these women were pilots! They flew manufactured airplanes to the point of embarkation where the planes would then be picked up and utilized for war purposes.
These women pilots saved critical human resources that could better be used elsewhere. While they were not officially a part of the Air Force, these "Yankee Doodle Gals" were recognized in later years for their essential part of what they accomplished in the war effort.
Dwight David Eisenhower
Known fondly as "Ike," this old Life magazine shows then 5-star general Dwight Eisenhower as supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. General Eisenhower directed invasions against both France and Germany and later became the 34th President of the United States. He is the first President that I vividly remember from my childhood.
War Bonds and Rationing
Citizens were called upon during World War 2 to purchase war bonds. I remember my mother telling me that even school children did this! It was considered an act of patriotism, and they were sold in denominations to suit almost anyone's finances. After the war's completion, these filled war bond books were exchanged back for money. The money raised by the sale of war bonds helped to finance the military expenses.
Ration books tell the story of food, gasoline, and other items being rationed during WWII. Meat and other items were shipped overseas to keep our military men well-fed and well equipped with what they needed. Civilians back home cut back on certain foods and other purchases to help our men in uniform. New car orders were put on hold because the metal was needed for the war effort as an example.
One of the posters in the museum is of Winston Churchill. He was a great statesman and the Prime Minister of Great Britain during those dark days of WWII. Known for his oratory skills, he kept the British people apprised of the war with his regular radio broadcasts. Churchill hardened their resolve to withstand the bombings and other horrors of conflict, leading to eventual victory.
During World War 2, Japanese airplanes did reach Hawaii and successfully bombed the United States base at Pearl Harbor. That bombing drew the United States into the war effort in the Pacific and Europe.
Civil defense was taught at home. Television sets regularly ran ads saying that "This is only a test." During a real emergency, we would have to tune in for further announcements.
Even at the end of WW2, growing up as a child attending school in the 1950s when the "cold war" was in existence we had (in addition to fire alarm drills) bomb drills in schools. We were taught to go under our desks, covering the backs of our necks and heads. "Duck and Cover" was drilled into us!
Lucky were the people who had bomb shelters underground with supplies meant to outlast the devastation caused by an atomic bomb. I guess my parents thought that our basement in central Wisconsin with the food stored down there would have to suffice. Every generation seems to have to face and prepare for scary things.
Houston Air Show
The Commemorative Air Force once a year produces an air show which features WWII aircraft. One year we decided to go and see these World War 2 airplanes on the ground as well as viewing them flying over our house. Both my husband and I enjoyed the up-close looks at these warbirds. My dad would surely have loved to see this if he were still among the living.
Pilots were taking turns in taking these old planes to the air. For a fee ranging from $195 to $450, interested people could take rides in them. We opted to keep our feet on terra firma the day of our visit and just look at the airplanes, take pictures, talk to people involved in flying them. It was a most enjoyable day!
During World War 2, many young men felt the call to duty, and my dad was one of them. He wanted to be a pilot and was in the middle of training when the entire school he was attending was canceled. Apparently, at the time, the thinking was that the U.S. already had enough military pilots. So this was an obvious way to trim expenses as pilot training is an expensive undertaking.
My dad always joked for the rest of his life that if he could not fly the planes, he could at least ride in them one way. He became a paratrooper! My father became a part of the 101st airborne division and saw action in Europe during World War 2.
Lockheed C-60A Airplane
The military plane that really caught my eye, because of my dad, was the one with the "Goodtime Gal" painted on the nose of the aircraft. It is shown above. Other airplanes at this commemorative air force airshow also had paintings known as nose art.
Planes were often painted with nose art that reminded the young fighting men of home, family, patriotism, or even the enemy. It could be sexy young ladies such as this "Goodtime Gal" painted on this paratrooper plane or nose art consisting of favorite cartoon characters as an example.
This particular airplane, a Lockheed C-60A, used during the same time when my dad would have been riding in them, caught my attention. Visitors that day could climb into the airplane and even sit in the pilot's seat if desired.
One could get a sense of what it would have been like sitting on those hard metal seats next to buddies while being transported to ultimately fight in the war. There were no round trips for those trained paratroopers. It was a one way trip to destiny!
Watch the video below to see a Lockheed C-60 and T-6 Texan depart from the West Houston Airport.
West Houston Airshow
Obviously, there were many more airplanes. Commemorative air force personnel, as well as civil air corps people, were on-site to do several things. They flew the planes, talked to visitors, directed traffic, and generally educated interested parties about these old aircraft from the World War 2 era during the airshow.
Many of these people are volunteers who simply love old airplanes and like the idea of being able to keep some of them serviced and still airworthy.
Pictured below is the Curtis SB2C Helldiver. It was a dive bomber that was typically flown from aircraft carriers. The folding wings would have made parking on aircraft carriers more expedient. It was interesting seeing that plane unfold its wings for flight and, upon landing, gradually raise them up to their folded position once again.
You can watch the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver take off from the Commemorative Air Force show at the West Houston Airport in the video below.
B-17 Flying Fortress
This was the United States high flying long-range bomber that inflicted more bomb damage to enemy targets during World War 2 than any other airplane.
It was used against German military and industrial targets. This aircraft was also utilized against some of the Japanese airfields and shipping lanes in the Pacific. It was so well constructed and well-armed that it almost seemed impervious to fatal damage. The B-17 is an enormous air machine when seen up close and was the largest at the time when it was built.
These World War 2 planes affiliated with the Commemorative Air Force are flown in different air shows around the country on various occasions.
Nicknamed the "Grasshopper," this lightweight airplane was used in World War II in both the European theaters and also the Pacific theater of war.
The "Grasshopper" was successfully utilized in spotting troop positions and also for reporting artillery formations to allied forces who could then address the situation appropriately.
This aircraft post-dated World War II but was included in this airshow. It was a trainer for pilots of the United States Navy and also the Marine Corps and saw action in both Vietnam and Laos.
The West Houston Airport hosts the Commemorative Air Force show at least once yearly and is home base for several of these old airplanes.
Below are some photos of some of the other aircraft seen during the airshow at the West Houston Airport the year we attended in 2016. The charge was only $10 per vehicle.
You can easily make a full day of it if you visit the WWII museum as well as the air show. Vendors are on hand to sell food and other items during these air shows. Click on the link below to find out when the next air show will take place, or times when you can visit the hangars and museum.
The museum is open to the public on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month from 10 am to 3 pm.
The West Houston Airport (IWS) is north of Interstate 10 off of Groeschke Road between Highway 6 and Barker Cypress Road.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Peggy Woods