Sunday, May 20, 2001

From left, Clint Churchill, retired Adm. Ronald Hays and Gary Miller
posed in front of a B-25J WWII bomber on display at Hickam Air
Force Base. Churchill is president, Hays is chairman and Miller is
program manager of the Military Aviation Museum of the Pacific.
They plan to have a B-25J on display at the museum.

Air museum
hopes to fly on
movie’s wings

Backers hope hype for
'Pearl Harbor' will build
support for the Ford
Island museum

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A new private foundation hopes to capitalize on all the attention on the premiere of the Disney blockbuster movie "Pearl Harbor" to draw support for the dream of building a Navy aviation museum on Ford Island.

Former F-15 jet fighter pilot Clinton Churchill says the $140 million movie and all the accompanying hoopla will certainly give "more attention" to the proposed Ford Island aviation museum he wants to build.

Gary Miller, who has been contracted by the Air Force to help establish and develop the Military Aviation Museum of the Pacific, said, "There is nothing in the Pacific now that deals with the story of the war in the Pacific."

"It will tell the story of air power in the Pacific from World War II through Korea, Vietnam and beyond."

Clint Churchill, of the planned Ford Island aviation museum

But he acknowledges that to make such a venture work takes "commitment and interest."

"The interest then has to be translated into passion and support by the general public and not just the veterans from World War II," Miller said.

"It's almost like producing a movie," Miller added, referring to the immense publicity now being generated by premiere of the Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay movie that will focus major international media attention on Hawaii and Pearl Harbor this week.

A similar thing happened with the opening of the D-Day museum in New Orleans, Miller said, which was helped by the popularity of the Steven Spielberg movie "Saving Private Ryan."

Organizers of the nonprofit foundation, the Military Aviation Museum of the Pacific Association, would like the visitor attraction to be built around Ford Island's hangars 54 and 79 and the control tower, which now fronts what was once the Army Corps' Luke Field. They also believe that building 37, currently used as a gymnasium, could be used to restore aircraft. All of these buildings were used extensively in the filming of the Disney movie last year.

Located within the southeastern end of Ford Island, these facilities can be seen from the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona. Along with the Bowfin Museum on the other side of the harbor, aviation museum backers believe their proposal could be marketed as "a day at Pearl Harbor."

Miller said the Arizona Memorial signifies the start of the World War II in the Pacific, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum tells the story of undersea operations in the Pacific, and the USS Missouri Memorial symbolizes surface naval operations and the end of the war.

Churchill, president of the aviation museum association, says his proposal has the support of Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, and the senior leadership of the Air Force.

Churchill said this is an effort involving his nonprofit association, the Air Force and the Navy.

Under a 1999 federal law, the secretary of the Navy has the authority to allow nonprofit groups like the museum to be part of the ambitious $600 million master plan, which envisions a complete makeover of Ford Island to include family housing, office buildings, a conference center and Navy Square visitor complex. The 12-year construction project will be funded mainly by the private sector.

Miller sees the museum as tracing the arrival of the first aircraft on Oahu in 1913, progressing through World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam to the present.

There are already six World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War Air Force aircraft displayed at Hickam Air Force Base, which could be loaned to the museum.

Other aircraft could come from the Naval Museum in Pensacola, Fla., the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Miller said.

By the end of the year, Churchill's association hopes to begin developing plans to raise money nationally, procure aircraft and other exhibits, and to determine other visitor attractions.

Using the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola as a guide, Churchill believe that as many as 50,000 students would be attracted to a Ford Island air museum, fulfilling one of its goals -- educating the public about flight, the military and the history of aviation in the Pacific.

"The museum will portray the history of military aviation in the Pacific and is intended to develop into a world-class international tourist attraction," he said. "It will tell the story of air power in the Pacific from World War II through Korea, Vietnam and beyond.

"The museum will have a strong educational presence and will be more than just a repository for artifacts. It will educate its visitors, particularly the younger generation, about men and women who sacrificed to ensure our country's freedom."

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