Today a very unique aircraft was brought through the front gate of the Museum of Aviation. F-100D tail number 56-2995 arrived on the back of a tractor-trailer and was greeted by an old friend, retired Major General Rick Goddard. Goddard flew 995 on 180 of his 226 combat missions during the Vietnam War. Goddard was Commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base from November 1997 to February 2000. This connection is not simply irony or a convenience. Because of its combat history and the connection to Goddard, this F-100D is much more meaningful to the local area and has a much greater historical value than the F-100C that it replaced.
Without a story an aircraft, or an object, is simply a part or collection of parts that do nothing more than decay over time. Personal stories add historic value to these objects, they make them come alive and help people connect with history. This historic value is both inherited and assigned, in that an objects’ lineage is only as good as our record keeping or ability to definitively connect it with a story. The F-100C that was here before Goddard’s F-100D had a history with no combat and no personal connection to the Middle Georgia area. Most of its value was what we, as a museum, had placed on it for being a type example. There are certain things that give an aircraft or object more value for a museum. Some of these reasons are location specific. 995 is especially valuable to the Museum of Aviation because of the connection with Goddard, who still lives in the area and because it was sent straight to Robins Air Force Base from the factory for a modification. Other reasons for assigning historic value are broader. 995 has a significant combat history from the Vietnam War and replaces an aircraft that had none. These reasons are often weighted against the logistical and financial concerns of obtaining an object or aircraft.
Whenever a new aircraft is made available to the Museum of Aviation, or plans are made to add a specific aircraft to the collection, research is done into the history of the tail number. Aircraft that have connections to Robins Air Force Base or someone from the local area are always of interest. However, often the Museum wishes to add an aircraft that has no specific connection to the area. In these cases, we search for aircraft that have specific or distinguished history to their tail numbers. Combat history, citations awarded to crews and participation in specific historically significant missions are just a few of the things that we look for when identifying an aircraft. Aircraft in the current inventory here are also sometimes candidates for replacement, as with 995 replacing the F-100C. An example is our F-111E (tail number 68-055) that we hope to replace with an F-111F (tail number 70-2413) that flew under the call sign Karma 51 in the El Dorado Canyon mission and also flew combat in Desert Storm. Sometimes we identify these “replacement” aircraft and other times they are brought to our attention by others (Goddard notified the Museum of 995).
There are no hard and fast rules to define historic value. A uniform worn by an individual during peace-time service can be quite valuable to someone with close ties to that person. The uniform may also hold some value in a museum, as a general or specific example depending upon the scope of the collection. The F-100C that was replaced by 995 was a very important part of some people’s story. Pilots sweated through flights in it and maintenance personnel put their hard labor into it. Whenever possible, and this is the case for the F-100C which will serve as a static display at Otis Air National Guard Base, the Museum tries to ensure that artifacts that are replaced find a home that plans to conserve them. However, in the end, there is no way for museum’s to preserve everything and hard decisions about historic value must be made.