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Project Welcome Home

Museum of Flight opens Vietnam vets park

On Saturday, the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field will open its Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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In 2012, The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle launched Project Welcome Home.

"This project is for Vietnam veterans and the sacrifices they made," said David Cable, a former Navy A-6 pilot who flew 100 missions over North Vietnam.

The effort raised about $3 million, and it restored and relocated a B-52G Stratofortress to a newly constructed two-acre memorial park adjacent to the museum.

"It was important the park represent all branches that served," explained Air Force veteran James Farmer, a Vietnam veteran and former B-52 pilot.

With the objective met, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park will open and be dedicated Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m. at The Museum of Flight.

Between 1954 and 1964, the Seattle-based Boeing Company built 744 B-52 bombers. Of that number, 193 were G Models.

One of those models -- tail number 59-2584 and nicknamed Midnight Express -- rolled off the assembly line in 1960. Assigned to the Strategic Air Command, she flew for 31 years.

A B-52 could deliver 30 tons of ordinance with pinpoint accuracy from 30,000 feet in any kind of weather, day or night.

During her service, Midnight Express accumulated 15,305 hours of flight time, some of which occurred in combat during the Vietnam War.

In December 1972, Operation Linebacker II commenced. It was a full-scale air campaign against North Vietnam's two major cities: Hanoi and Haiphong.

"We felt like we were really doing something important, and as it turned out, it really was," continued Farmer.

When the bombing missions ended in late December, the B-52 strikes had accomplished their mission. The North Vietnamese government agreed to resume peace negotiations and to release 591 American prisoners-of-war.

Midnight Express flew several missions during Operation Linebacker II.

"If it had not been for President Nixon and the sheer courage of the B-52 and tactical aircrews, the POWs would never have returned," Joe Crecca, a former Air Force F-4 pilot and POW for six years, said.

In 1991, Midnight Express was retired to Paine Field in Everett where she remained for 26 years.

In 2012, Farmer, Crecca and others began Project Welcome Home to restore the aircraft and make it the centerpiece of a memorial park at the Museum of Flight.

"This was all about teamwork; you've got Army, Navy and Air Force veterans here," commented Mike Brown, a Vietnam veteran and former AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilot.

Standing in front of and to the port side of Midnight Express is an eight-foot, six-inch-tall bronze statue cradling a folded American flag in his right hand. The sculpture represents those who returned; the flag represents those who were lost.

"I am grateful for what has been done here," Vietnam veteran and retired Army Lt. Col. David Waggoner said quietly as he stood by the sculpture.

"This B-52, this park, this statue and this museum honors the 3.4 million Americans who served in Southeast Asia."

For more information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, visit:

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park opening and dedication, 11 a.m., Saturday, May 25, Museum of Flight, 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle,

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