Museum displays helicopter that ended Vietnam War.

This Boeing Vertol CH-46D(E) Sea Knight military helicopter in San Diego is an object of great historical importance.
This particular Boeing Vertol CH-46D(E) Sea Knight military helicopter in San Diego is an object of great historical importance.

Many regard the evacuation of the United States Ambassador from Saigon as the end of the Vietnam War. On April 30, 1975, as ordered by President Gerald Ford, Ambassador Graham Martin was airlifted from the rooftop of the American Embassy. He had stepped aboard a Boeing Vertol CH-46D(E) Sea Knight military helicopter, call sign Lady Ace 09, flown by pilot Captain Gerry Berry.

Today the public can view Lady Ace 09 at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego.

While the Ambassador’s evacuation from the Embassy has provided a visual symbol of America’s departure from South Vietnam, the reality was a bit more chaotic. When Lady Ace 09 transmitted “Tiger is out,” indicating the Ambassador had been retrieved, other helicopter crews involved in the evacuation mistakenly thought the mission was completed. But Marine Security Guards on the Embassy’s rooftop would be lifted to safety hours later. Shortly thereafter, Communist forces would raise the Viet Cong flag over Saigon’s Presidential Palace.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. In addition to Lady Ace 09, over two dozen aircraft that have been flown by the United States Marines are on display. Admission is free.

The museum wants to expand. You can help! Learn more here.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego contains many aircraft that have been used during the history of the United States Marine Corps.
The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego contains many aircraft that have been used during the history of the United States Marine Corps.
At the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, the public can see the helicopter that evacuated the U.S. Ambassador from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
At the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, the public can see the actual helicopter that evacuated the U.S. Ambassador from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War.
Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 April 1975, call sign Lady Ace 09. This Sea Knight helicopter evacuated Ambassador Graham Martin from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam.
Operation Frequent Wind, 29-30 April 1975, call sign Lady Ace 09. This Sea Knight helicopter evacuated Ambassador Graham Martin from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. (Click photo to expand.)
A look at the rear of the historic helicopter that transported U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin to the safety of USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) standing by in the South China Sea.
A look at the rear of the historic helicopter that transported U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin to the safety of USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) standing by in the South China Sea.
The fuselage of Sea Knight troop transport helicopter, call sign Lady Ace 09.
The fuselage of Sea Knight troop transport helicopter, call sign Lady Ace 09.
At 04:58 Ambassador Martin boarded Lady Ace 09 on the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon. The message Tiger is out was transmitted, signaling the departure of the U.S. Ambassador.
At 04:58 Ambassador Martin boarded Lady Ace 09 on the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon. The message “Tiger is out” was transmitted, signaling the departure of the U.S. Ambassador.
The nose of Lady Ace 09, which today is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
The nose of Lady Ace 09, which today is on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.
Inside the the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, visitors can see one section devoted to USMC aviators and aircraft that participated in the Vietnam War.
Inside the the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, visitors can see one section devoted to USMC aviators and aircraft that participated in the Vietnam War.
One exhibit includes a map of Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Vietnam during the war.
One museum display case includes a map of Laos, Cambodia, and North and South Vietnam during the war.
Photos of Marine helicopter operations during the Vietnam War.
Photos of Marine helicopter operations during the Vietnam War.
Boeing Vertol CH-46D(E) Sea Knight, call sign Lady Ace 09, the helicopter whose historic mission is often regarded as the conclusion of the Vietnam War.
Boeing Vertol CH-46D(E) Sea Knight, call sign Lady Ace 09, the helicopter whose historic flight is often regarded as the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

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Navajo Code Talkers at Marine aviation museum.

Photo of Samuel Tsosie Sr., Navajo Code Talker during World War II.
Photo of Samuel Tsosie Sr., Navajo Code Talker during World War II.

A small but fascinating exhibit remembering the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II is currently on display at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego. The exhibition, titled CELEBRATING 75 YEARS – CODE TALKERS: THE NAVAJO WEAPON, contains photos, documents, uniforms and historical artifacts that describe how the Navajo language was used to develop a code for secret tactical communication in the Pacific, in places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The Navajo code, which was classified until 1968, is the only spoken military code that was never deciphered.

The exhibit explains:

Many scholars credit Philip Johnston with initiating the Code Talker idea. Johnston was a Caucasian who grew up in Leupp, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. He approached the Marine Corps in 1942 after the attack on Pearl Harbor and proposed using Native American Navajo language for combat communications.

His knowledge of the Navajo culture led him to bring four Navajo volunteers to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California (an area that is now part of MCAS-Miramar) for a demonstration. Impressed with successful and efficient English and Navajo translations, the Marine Corps began recruiting Navajos. The first group of twenty-nine recruits entered boot camp, took courses in military communication procedures and developed the code. Approximately 400 Navajo recruited by the Marines learned the code.

Working around the clock during the first two days of Iwo Jima, six Navajo Code Talkers sent and received over 800 messages, all without error. According to Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division Signal Officer, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima”.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum is free and open to the public at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The museum grounds contains over two dozen aircraft used during the proud history of Marine Corps aviation. It has the world’s largest and most complete collection of vintage aircraft flown by United States Marine pilots.

The museum is looking to expand and I’m told they would really appreciate your help. For more info, click here.

Celebrating 75 Years - Code Talkers: The Navajo Weapon. The Marine Corps deployed the Code Talkers to the Pacific, where the code proved effective and indecipherable.
Celebrating 75 Years – Code Talkers: The Navajo Weapon. The Marine Corps deployed the Code Talkers to the Pacific, where the code proved effective and indecipherable. (Click photo to expand for easy reading.)
The first 29 Code Talkers enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, 1942.
The first 29 Code Talkers enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, 1942.
First 29 Code Talkers of 382nd Platoon, 1942.
First 29 Code Talkers of 382nd Platoon, 1942.
Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bahe and George Kirk working their radio in the jungles of Bougainville.
Navajo Code Talkers Henry Bahe and George Kirk working their radio in the jungles of Bougainville.
Eight Navajo Code Talkers on Bougainville. Most hold an M1 Garand used in combat.
Eight Navajo Code Talkers on Bougainville. Most hold an M1 Garand used in combat.
Display case in the special Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum exhibit includes military field equipment used by the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II.
Display case in this special Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum exhibit includes military field equipment used by the Navajo Code Talkers during World War II.
The EE-8 Field Telephone/Radio was used by the Signal Corps from before World War II through the Vietnam War.
The EE-8 Field Telephone/Radio was used by the Signal Corps from before World War II through the Vietnam War.
Navajo Code Talkers share their culture at Camp Elliott, 1943.
Navajo Code Talkers share their culture at Camp Elliott, 1943.
One of four creators of the code, Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez.
One of four creators of the code, Navajo Code Talker Chester Nez.
Navajo Code Talker PFC Carl Gorman mans his observation post overlooking Garapan Saipan, 1944.
Navajo Code Talker PFC Carl Gorman mans his observation post overlooking Garapan Saipan, 1944.
This enlisted man's uniform jacket, shirt and tie belonged to Samuel Tsosie Sr. The Guadalcanal patch was worn on discharge uniforms by all Navajo Code Talkers.
This enlisted man’s uniform jacket, shirt and tie belonged to Samuel Tsosie Sr. The Guadalcanal patch was worn on discharge uniforms by all Navajo Code Talkers.
Navajo Code Talker Samuel Tsosie Sr., pictured with Alfred M. Gray Jr. during an award assembly in 2009. Gray served as the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1987-1991.
Navajo Code Talker Samuel Tsosie Sr., pictured with Alfred M. Gray Jr. during an award assembly in 2009. Gray served as the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps from 1987-1991.
Official uniform of the Navajo Code Talkers includes a red cap, Navajo jewelry, gold shirt, patch on upper arm, light-colored trousers and abalone-colored shoes.
Official uniform of the Navajo Code Talkers includes a red cap, Navajo jewelry, gold shirt, patch on upper arm, light-colored trousers and abalone-colored shoes.

The museum exhibit explains the significance of various items worn by the Navajo Code Talkers.

The red cap indicates the United States Marine Corps. The jewelry represents the Navajo or Diné, which translates “Children of God” or “The People”. The gold shirt represents corn pollen. The light-colored trousers represent Mother Earth. The abalone-colored shoes represents the sacred mountains.

Replica of Congressional Silver Medal represents the medal received by Samuel Tsosie Sr. for his service during World War II. 300 Navajo received the Silver medal.
Replica of Congressional Silver Medal represents the medal received by Samuel Tsosie Sr. for his service during World War II. 300 Navajo received the Silver medal.
Shoulder patch of U.S. Marine Corps--WWII Navajo Code Talkers Association.
Shoulder patch of U.S. Marine Corps–WWII Navajo Code Talkers Association.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Aviation history at Waldo Dean Waterman Park.

A small public park, recently created in Bankers Hill, is named for San Diego aviation pioneer Waldo Dean Waterman.
A small public park, recently created in Bankers Hill, is named for San Diego aviation pioneer Waldo Dean Waterman.

Last month a small public park opened in Bankers Hill at the edge of narrow Maple Canyon. The park is named after Waldo Dean Waterman, an inventor and early aviation pioneer who was the first in San Diego to fly a heavier-than-air machine. He made that flight into Maple Canyon in 1909, at the age of fifteen!

Waterman experimented with unique aeronautical designs for most of his life. He invented the first tail-less monoplane in the United States, called the Whatsit, which was the very first aircraft in history to use now standard tricycle landing gear. He then designed the Arrowbile, which was the first successful flying car!

Waldo Dean Waterman Park is a beautiful and inspiring addition to our city. For generations to come, the park will remain a living monument to a visionary man who made several important contributions to aviation history!

A resident of Bankers Hill walks his dog through the beautiful park. Local aviation history was made here in 1909.
A resident of Bankers Hill walks his dog through the beautiful park. Local aviation history was made here in 1909.
Beautiful blooms at Waldo Dean Waterman Park in Bankers Hill.
Beautiful blooms at Waldo Dean Waterman Park in Bankers Hill.
Sign summarizes the life and accomplishments of Early Bird aviation pioneer Waldo Dean Waterman, a resident of San Diego. He flew a glider at the age of 15 from this site into Maple Canyon below.
Sign summarizes the life and accomplishments of Early Bird aviation pioneer Waldo Dean Waterman, a resident of San Diego. He flew a glider at the age of 15 from this site into Maple Canyon below. (Click image to enlarge.)
Plaque dated July 1, 1959 commemorates Waldo D. Waterman for his many contributions to the science of flight.
Plaque dated July 1, 1959 commemorates Waldo D. Waterman for his many contributions to the science of flight.

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Red Bull Air Race plane flies above San Diego!

Look! Up in the sky! A Red Bull Air Race plane is about to buzz the San Diego Convention Center!
Look! Up in the sky! A Red Bull Air Race plane is about to buzz the San Diego Convention Center!

Check out this cool sight that just went up in San Diego’s Gaslamp, right next to the trolley station and Tin Fish restaurant! A Red Bull Air Race plane appears to be flying low over downtown! I think it might buzz the nearby convention center!

This morning, when I took these photos, I spoke to friendly guys putting up some promotional banners and learned the cool “plane on a post” had just been installed. A couple cranes were nearby. It appears to be an actual plane that is flown during the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

The next big race comes to San Diego Bay in two weeks. The best pilots in the world will fly a few feet above the water through an insane aerial obstacle course. Some years back a Red Bull Air Race was held in San Diego, and I caught some of the incredible action from a distance. All I can say is those pilots must have amazing reflexes and nerves of steel!

This unique motorsport was devised by the people at Red Bull. The planes move at high speed and are extremely maneuverable. This year the Master Class category features fourteen of the world’s top pilots.

There are eight races around the globe, mostly in cities by water, and San Diego will be the second race. I hope to catch it! If I do, I’ll post photos!

A cool airplane of the type San Diego will see in two weeks at the Red Bull Air Race above San Diego Bay.
The type of cool airplane flown at a Red Bull Air Race.  The upcoming aerial race will be through a unique obstacle course above San Diego Bay.
San Diego Trolley leaves the Gaslamp Station and passes a new banner advertising the Red Bull Air Race in mid-April.
San Diego Trolley leaves the Gaslamp Station and passes a new banner advertising the Red Bull Air Race in mid-April.
Poster promotes the upcoming Red Bull Air Race over San Diego Bay, on April 15 and 16.
Poster promotes the upcoming Red Bull Air Race over San Diego Bay, on April 15 and 16.
It might be small, but it's highly maneuverable and super fast!
It might be small, but it can turn on a dime and is super fast!
One can see some of the airplane's inner workings. There doesn't appear to be much room in the cockpit!
One can see some of the airplane’s inner workings. There doesn’t appear to be much room in the cockpit!
Now the Red Bull Air Race plane seems to be banking toward the Gaslamp! Perhaps it will fly up Fifth Avenue!
Now the Red Bull Air Race plane seems to be banking toward the Gaslamp! Perhaps it will fly up Fifth Avenue!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Firefighting helicopters suck water from San Diego River!

One of the San Diego Fire Department's two firefighting helicopters fills it water tank using a hose lowered into the San Diego River in Mission Valley.
One of the San Diego Fire Department’s two firefighting helicopters fills its water tank using a hose lowered into the San Diego River in Mission Valley.

I was lucky late this afternoon to capture some cool action pics! After work, I was eating at Jack in the Box in Hazard Center when I saw a helicopter swooping rapidly down toward the nearby San Diego River. A hose was dangling underneath, so I knew it was a firefighting helicopter arriving to suck up some river water!

I hurried down to the center of the action to watch and snap a few photographs. It’s the first time I’ve witnessed this activity up close.

Someone on the river path said there was a fire to the northwest in Linda Vista, but I couldn’t see any smoke. I watched five different instances of helicopters filling their tanks, then the action ceased. The fire must’ve been quickly contained.

A wildfire must be nearby because here comes a firefighting helicopter swooping rapidly down over Mission Center Road toward a wide spot in the San Diego River!
A wildfire must be nearby because here comes a firefighting helicopter swooping rapidly down over Mission Center Road and the raised trolley tracks toward a wide spot in the San Diego River!
The chopper slows and carefully makes its descent in order to suck water into its belly tank to eventually drop on a wildfire.
The chopper slows and carefully makes its descent in order to suck water into its belly tank to eventually drop on a wildfire.
The air from the rotor blades causes spray to fly up from the surface of the San Diego River. Several joggers and walkers on the nearby paths stopped to watch.
The air from the rotor blades causes spray to fly up from the surface of the San Diego River. Several joggers and walkers on the nearby paths stopped to watch.
The long hose quickly sucks a good quantity of water from the river. The pilot is highly skilled, hovering the helicopter above the water, steady as a rock.
The long hose quickly sucks a good quantity of water from the river. The pilot is highly skilled, hovering the helicopter close above the water, steady as a rock.
A couple minutes later one of the San Diego County Sheriff's three firefighting helicopters arrives! You can see the external belly tank underneath the chopper's body!
A couple minutes later one of the San Diego County Sheriff’s three firefighting helicopters arrives! You can see the external belly tank underneath the chopper’s body!
This firefighting helicopter got so close to the water I had to hold my breath. These brave hero pilots are amazingly precise.
This firefighting helicopter got so close to the water I had to hold my breath. These brave hero pilots are amazingly precise.
ASTREA is the Sheriff’s Department aviation unit. Up this aircraft goes, quickly swinging overhead and heading to the northwest. Someone thought there was a fire in Linda Vista, but I didn't see any smoke in any direction.
ASTREA is the Sheriff’s Department aviation unit. Up their aircraft goes, quickly swinging overhead and heading to the northwest. Someone thought there was a fire in Linda Vista, but I didn’t see smoke from the bottom of Mission Valley in any direction.
A San Diego Fire Department chopper has sucked up more water from the river and flies again toward the northwest! The fire must have been small, because the action above the river didn't seem to last for more than 15 minutes.
A San Diego Fire Department chopper has sucked up more water from the river and flies in a big hurry again toward the northwest! The fire must have been small, because the action above the river didn’t seem to last for more than 15 minutes.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! Sometimes I randomly stumble upon fascinating, newsworthy events! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Bronze plaque marks birthplace of naval aviation.

Bronze plaque in Coronado marks birthplace of naval aviation.
Bronze plaque in Coronado marks birthplace of naval aviation.

In Coronado’s beautiful Centennial Park, just north of the Coronado Ferry Landing, you can find this relatively new bronze plaque. It marks the birthplace of naval aviation, Rockwell Field, which no longer exists.

The historical marker reads:

BIRTHPLACE OF NAVAL AVIATION

In 1910, on the unoccupied brushland of North Coronado Island, inventor and entrepreneur Glenn Hammond Curtiss opened his winter flying school for prospective “aeroplane pilots.” Among his first class of students was Navy Lieutenant Theodore G. “Spuds” Ellyson, who would become the first Naval Aviator. In 1917, the U.S. Congress appropriated the island to support the World War I effort and two airfields occupied its sandy flats–the Navy’s “Camp Trouble” and the Army Signal Corps’ Rockwell Field. The Army vacated Rockwell Field in 1935, at which time the Navy expanded its operations to cover the whole island. Many aviation milestones originated from North Island including the first seaplane flight in the United States in 1911.

San Diego, California was designated the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation” by the Armed Services Committee of the United States House of Representatives on 24 March 1961.

Marker Placed By

California State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution

2011

Historical marker is located near east end of Centennial Park.
Historical marker is located near east end of Centennial Park.
Rockwell Field in 1924.
Rockwell Field in 1924.

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