One can always find a military base in California. No doubt a holdover from World War II, they line the coast. As the years have passed, a few have closed. I recently visited one not too far from my home. I drove to San Bernardino to see the Norton AFB Museum. The base itself is now the San Bernardino International Airport. Times change, but memories live on.
A local museum is a terrific way to learn about neighborhood history. I had no idea the base was named after Leland Nortan, a San Bernardino hero. Born in 1921, he was just the right age to serve in World War II as a member of the Army Air Forces. He eventually became a captain of a bomber group. During a mission over France, anti-aircraft fire struck his plane. He told his men to bail out while he stayed. For his courage, he received several commendations, including a Purple Heart.
Flight suits, helmets, and more
The museum isn’t large, but it holds a variety of military memorabilia. Many items relate to the Lockheed C-141, an enormous, long-range transport vehicle.
Of course, I’ve heard about an airplane’s black box. The surprise was that it wasn’t black! None of them are!
I was also impressed by the toolbox that belonged to the crew chief.
How much does that thing weigh when it’s empty? I can’t imagine how that fellow in the photo managed to heft it when it was filled with tools.
Uniforms and other attire
I know nothing about the military, so it was interesting to see the WAF band uniform, the flight suits, and the mess dress. Did I have a favorite? That’s a tricky question, but I’m leaning toward the band.
Of course, there’s a story here. As the name implies, this was an all-women’s ensemble. The men were in the Washington-based USAF Band. Both played at the inauguration ceremonies for Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. As for the sheet music, it’s the coronet part for John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever March. Curious about Martha Jean “Martye” Awkerman, I discovered she was a brilliant trumpet player. You never know what you’ll find at the Norton AFB Museum!
- Admission is free
- The museum is open 10:00 am – 2:00 pm on Thursday and Saturday
- Take your time; there’s a lot to see and read!
- A docent will gladly help you.
- At the time of this writing, there is an ongoing “buy a brick” campaign. The engraved bricks will surround the veterans’ memorial.
Please click here to see more images from my visit to the Norton AFB Museum.