A visit to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum.

Douglas F4D-1 (F-6A) Skyray.
Douglas F4D-1 (F-6A) Skyray.

I often drive down Miramar Road past the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum. When I do, I usually turn my head to see if any people are outside investigating the dozens of unique military aircraft that are on display. Few people seem to visit.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, located at MCAS Miramar, is open free to the general public. It features all sorts of airplanes and helicopters that have been used by the United State Marine Corps over the decades.

When I first visited the museum last year, I was floored by the extent of its collection. While many of the aircraft might not be restored to pristine condition, they each represent a fascinating era in U. S. military history. Visitors to the museum can also see other equipment that has been used by the Marines, including tanks and artillery pieces.

Most impressively, the museum owns the actual helicopter that was last to leave Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. That Sea Knight helicopter’s call sign was Lady Ace 09. If you’d like to see photographs of Lady Ace 09, and learn a bit more about that moment in history, click here.

The following photos depict just a fraction of what you’ll discover at the museum.

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum seems to be a little known gem in San Diego. Those who are interested in 20th century history, aviation or the United States Marine Corps should definitely swing on by!

The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, open free to the public, is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, open free to the public, is located at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Inside the museum, a variety of exhibits detail different modern aircraft that have been used by the United States Marine Corps.
Inside the museum, a variety of exhibits detail different aircraft that have been used by the United States Marine Corps.
Dozens of historical Marine aircraft can be viewed outdoors at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego.
Dozens of historical Marine aircraft can be viewed outdoors at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum in San Diego.
Beechcraft T-34B Mentor.
Beechcraft T-34B Mentor.
General Motors FM-2 Wildcat.
General Motors FM-2 Wildcat.
Northrup F-5E Tiger II.
Northrup F-5E Tiger II.
Grumman F9F-2 Panther.
Grumman F9F-2 Panther.
Hawker-Siddeley AV-8A(C) Harrier.
Hawker-Siddeley AV-8A(C) Harrier.
Bell AH-1J SeaCobra.
Bell AH-1J SeaCobra.
Sikorsky HUS-1 (UH-34D) Seahorse.
Sikorsky HUS-1 (UH-34D) Seahorse.
Bell 214ST.
Bell 214ST.
McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk II.
McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk II.
Visitors to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum learn about the history of one airplane in their large and fascinating collection.
Visitors to the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum learn about the history of one airplane in a very large and fascinating collection.

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Inspirational photos of Memorial Day.

I had all sorts of plans for this Memorial Day weekend. But I’ve decided to rest and write. Three uninterrupted days of writing. In a quiet place.

I’ve blogged about local Memorial Day events in past years. If you’d like to see many inspirational photographs, click the following links:

Photos of Memorial Day at Mount Hope Cemetery–remembering those who perished in the Civil War.

Memorial Day at The Veterans Museum in Balboa Park–remembering those who died in the Vietnam War.

Photos of Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Rosecrans–sloping fields of flags and roses.

World War II vets honored on USS Midway–remembering the Greatest Generation.

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.

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!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands of interesting photos for you to check out!

Memorial Day at The Veterans Museum in Balboa Park.

Vietnamese Community of San Diego wreath stands in front of the San Diego Peace Memorial.
Vietnamese Community of San Diego wreath stands by Peace Memorial.

Today I attended two Memorial Day ceremonies.

First, in the morning, I walked up to Balboa Park.  There I joined others in remembering those who’d lost their lives in a terrible war. An emotional ceremony was held at the San Diego Vietnam Peace Memorial, which is located right next to The Veterans Museum. Special attention was given during this event to those who died serving their country during the Vietnam War.

Please forgive me. When I arrived I was in a quiet mood. I stood off to the side mostly, took no notes, snapped a photo now and then. I mostly just absorbed the speeches, the music, the flowers, so many names on bronze plaques and proud salutes by veterans in attendance. I felt a bit shy and didn’t grab a program. I regret that now. I forget the names of the speakers, and the lady who sang so beautifully.

Members of Vietnam Veterans of America, 472, were present. Before the morning program commenced, they had read names of the fallen–the Calling of the Names.

Many from the local Vietnamese community also attended. Some among them had fought in the war.

I remember that the keynote speech was very clear and very powerful. It was about service, and courage, and liberty, and friendship, and pain, and sacrifice, and history. It acknowledged the horror of war. Those who fought would rather have been at home in peace. All gave some; some gave all.

Those whose names are eternally engraved on the Peace Memorial have earned the gratitude of many.

Here are a few photos.

Flags are presented.
Flags are readied.
Salutes.
Salutes.
A dignified program commences. The Vietnam War is remembered, and those who fell during the conflict are honored.
A dignified program commences. The Vietnam War is remembered, and those who fell during the conflict are honored.
Speeches recall the harsh realities of war, and the democratic ideals many fought to defend.
Speeches recall the harsh realities of war, and the democratic ideals many fought to defend.
All quietly listen, some remember.
All quietly listen, some remember.
Joyful, triumphant singing. America the Beautiful.
Joyful, triumphant singing. America the Beautiful.
Love for country. Young and old salute.
Love for country. Young and old salute.
A folded flag above the plaque marking the Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial in Balboa Park.
A folded flag above the plaque marking the Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial in Balboa Park.
Names of San Diegans who were killed or designated missing in action during the Vietnam War fill half a dozen bronze plaques.
Names of San Diegans who were killed or designated missing in action during the Vietnam War fill half a dozen bronze plaques.
Flags, flowers and photos. A loved family member.
Flags, flowers and photos. A loved family member.
On March 7, 1971, at the age of 21, David Jesus Naranjo perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Quang Nam.
On March 7, 1971, at the age of 21, David Jesus Naranjo perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Quang Nam.

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!

Tour of San Diego Navy ships from old Swift Boat.

The restored Swift Boat, PCF-816 approaches the Maritime Museum of San Diego on downtown's waterfront.
The restored Swift Boat, PCF-816 approaches the Maritime Museum of San Diego on downtown’s waterfront.

Last weekend I embarked on a very unique boat adventure on San Diego Bay. Enjoying sunshine and a cool ocean breeze, I sat outside on the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s restored Swift Boat, and took in various interesting sights during an approximately one hour tour.

PCF-816 is a small Mark ll Patrol Craft Fast “Swift Boat” that was originally used in San Diego (1968-1969) to train sailors before they were deployed to fight in the Vietnam War. In 1971 the vessel was donated to the Republic of Malta, where it was used to patrol their coast. In 2012 the beat up boat returned to San Diego.  After many hours of work by volunteers, it was carefully restored to it’s present fine condition. You might note in the photos that she still flies the Maltese flag.

If you’re fascinated by tacking sailboats, arching bridges and sprawling shipyards, interested in military history or modern Navy ships, or just want to enjoy a cruise on San Diego Bay, you might enjoy this tour!

Inside the museum's steam ferry Berkeley, visitors check out informative exhibits as they wait to board the Swift Boat.
Inside the Maritime Museum’s steam ferry Berkeley, visitors check out informative exhibits as they wait to board the old Swift Boat.
With the introduction of Swift Boats into the Coastal Surveillance Forces of the Navy in 1965, the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado became a major training center for Swift Boat crews.
With the introduction of Swift Boats into the Coastal Surveillance Forces of the Navy in 1965, the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado became a major training center for Swift Boat crews.
Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) was the U.S. Navy's official name for a Swift Boat. They were small, shallow draft water vessels operated for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.
Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) was the U.S. Navy’s official name for a Swift Boat. They were small, shallow draft water vessels operated for counterinsurgency operations during the Vietnam War.
People board the Vietnam-era boat from the Maritime Museum's docked steam yacht Medea.
People board the old Vietnam War-era boat from the Maritime Museum’s docked steam yacht Medea.
We cast off and begin a partial tour of the bay, including enormous shipyards and many San Diego Navy ships.
We cast off and begin a partial tour of the bay, including enormous shipyards and many San Diego Navy ships.
A museum volunteer narrates our tour and points out some of the unique sights on San Diego Bay.
A museum volunteer narrates our tour and points out some of the unique sights on San Diego Bay.
No matter what boat or ship you choose, a cruise of the bay is both relaxing and invigorating.
No matter what boat or ship you choose, a cruise of the big bay is both relaxing and invigorating.
We pass under the immense bow of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is also a super popular and fascinating museum.
We pass under the immense bow of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, which is also a super popular museum.
We pass a sailboat and begin under the Coronado Bay Bridge. We are approaching San Diego's very large, busy shipyards.
We pass a sailboat and begin under the Coronado Bay Bridge. We are approaching San Diego’s very large, busy shipyards.
A huge Navy ship in dry dock at BAE Systems’ San Diego shipyard. NASSCO and Continental Maritime also have enormous yards on the bay.
A huge Navy ship in dry dock at BAE Systems’ San Diego shipyard. NASSCO and Continental Maritime also have enormous yards on the bay.
The gigantic gray ship is the USNS Lewis B. Puller. The first of its kind, it's a forward staging base that will act as a floating base or transfer station.
The gigantic gray ship is the USNS Lewis B. Puller. The first of its kind, it’s a forward staging base that will act as a floating base or transfer station.
USNS Bob Hope is another huge ship! She's a vehicle cargo ship used for Army vehicle prepositioning, She's the only Navy vessel to be named after entertainer Bob Hope.
USNS Bob Hope is also huge! She’s a vehicle cargo ship used for Army vehicle prepositioning, She’s the only Navy vessel to be named after legendary entertainer Bob Hope.
That unique ship in the middle is a new Independence-class littoral combat ship. USS Coronado is a trimaran, which allows it to operate in shallow water.
That unique ship in the middle is a new Independence-class littoral combat ship. USS Coronado is a trimaran, which allows it to operate in shallow coastal water.
USS Essex is an enormous United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship based in San Diego.
USS Essex is an enormous United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship based in San Diego.
Naval Base San Diego (also called 32nd Street Naval Station) occupies a long stretch of South Bay. It's the largest United States Navy base on the west coast.
Naval Base San Diego (also called 32nd Street Naval Station) occupies a long stretch of South Bay. It’s the largest United States Navy base on the west coast.
Guy enjoying the tour dons helmet and mans the Swift Boat's old 50 caliber machine gun, which is mounted over a 81mm mortar.
Guy enjoying the tour dons helmet and mans the Swift Boat’s 50 caliber machine gun, which is mounted over a 81mm mortar on the boat’s rear deck.
A pith military helmet once worn by Viet Cong soldiers is passed around for the passengers to examine.
A pith military helmet once worn by Viet Cong soldiers is passed around for the passengers to examine.
A watchful seagull and lazy sea lion share a harbor buoy on calm, sunny San Diego Bay.
A watchful seagull and lazy sea lion share a harbor buoy on calm, sunny San Diego Bay.
Heading back toward downtown San Diego, we learn more about the history of Swift Boat training in San Diego.
Heading back toward downtown San Diego, we learn more about the history of Swift Boat training in our fascinating city.
After docking, I get a quick pic of the Mark ll Swift Boat's small pilot house.
After docking, I get a quick pic of the Mark ll Swift Boat’s small pilot house.
Swift Boat, PCF-816 is one of many interesting, diverse vessels in the Maritime Museum's collection.
Swift Boat, PCF-816 is one of many interesting, diverse vessels in the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s collection.

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A San Diego New Year’s wish: Peace on Earth.

Morning light shines on plaques originally called the San Diego Peace Memorial.
Morning light shines on monument originally called the San Diego Peace Memorial.

A fervent wish for this New Year: May There Be Peace on Earth.

Perhaps it’s futile to expect peaceful human coexistence on this crazy, mixed up planet. It often seems that way. That’s unfortunate. But it would be even more tragic to completely lose hope.

The creators of one poignant local memorial certainly yearned for the end of war. Because they understood war is brutal.

A row of plaques stand on the east side of the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park. Originally called the San Diego Peace Memorial and installed in Old Town in 1969, the silent monument was renamed the Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial in 1996 and moved to this location. It lists all San Diegans who were killed or designated missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Today’s Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is housed in the former chapel of the old San Diego Naval Hospital, which was built during World War II. Throughout the history of mankind, wars have invariably reminded us of the sanctity of peace.

In 2015, May There Be Peace on Earth.

People head into the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.
People head into the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.
Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial was originally located in Old Town.
Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial was originally located in Old Town.
Small American flags remember those who sacrificed in a difficult war.
Small American flags remember those who sacrificed in a difficult, controversial war.
Names of San Diegans who lost their lives fighting the Vietnam War, 1965-1975.
Names of San Diegans who lost their lives fighting in the Vietnam War, 1965-1975.
Flag flies above Veterans Museum, formerly the San Diego Naval Hospital Chapel.
Flag flies above Veterans Museum, formerly the San Diego Naval Hospital Chapel.

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Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in San Diego.

The Wall That Heals honors Vietnam War veterans.
The Wall That Heals honors Vietnam War veterans.

This morning around seven I walked over to the grassy park just south of the USS Midway Museum.  I wanted to see The Wall That Heals.

A half-scale traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the black wall is inscribed with over 58,000 names.  Each name belongs to a serviceman who made the ultimate sacrifice during that war.

I’m sure the weekend crowds will be huge, but early on a Friday morning very few people were about.

The Wall That Heals and several thought-provoking displays that accompany it will remain in San Diego through Sunday.

If all of the names could be in one place, these names would have great power.
If all of the names could be in one place…
Helmet and boots from Vietnam War era.
Helmet and boots from Vietnam War era.
Friends of the Forgotten, remembering those who sacrificed.
Friends of the Forgotten, remembering those who sacrificed.
The Gold Star Bike on public display.
The Gold Star Bike on public display.
Welcome to The Wall That Heals.
Welcome to The Wall That Heals.
Flowers and the names of over 58,000 who gave their lives.
Flowers and the names of over 58,000 who gave their lives.

UPDATE…

I took the following photos Sunday afternoon around one o’clock.

Half-size replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial in San Diego.
Half-size replica of Vietnam Veterans Memorial in San Diego.
People read names inscribed on The Wall That Heals.
People read names inscribed on The Wall That Heals.