Delta's long and rich legacy of providing vital service to the U.S. military comes to life through many special artifacts preserved at the Delta Flight Museum.
Delta News Hub interviewed Marie Force, the museum's Director – Archives, about the many special artifacts from across Delta’s family tree of more than 40 airlines that honor the dedication of the airline and its employees during decades of conflict.
Delta News Hub: Throughout the company’s history, Delta people have juggled commitments to both the U.S. military and to the airline’s passengers in times of war. What types of wartime memorabilia can visitors look forward to seeing at the Delta Flight Museum?
Marie Force: The expansion of military aviation during World War I contributed to the creation of Huff Daland Dusters, Delta’s predecessor company and the world’s first aerial crop-dusting firm. At the Delta Flight Museum, visitors can see early 1920s film footage of Army pilots and planes on loan to the USDA laboratory in Tallulah, La., for use in dusting experiments. These experiments led to the production of the Huff Daland Duster, the world’s first aircraft designed for dusting crops. A life-size replica of the Huff Daland Duster, hand-built by Art Arace, Maintenance Manager at the museum, is one of the first highlights our visitors see when they enter Hangar 1.
We also have a number of artifacts from the World War II era on display. The largest is Delta’s 21-passenger 1940 Douglas DC-3 Ship 41. During World War II, DC-3s carried military personnel and cargo. After the war, civilian airlines resumed normal schedules with converted military surplus DC-3s.
Near Ship 41, visitors will see our four-seat Northeast Airlines Stinson Reliant, which contributed to the war effort from 1941-1942 as a flight instruction trainer. We also have a Link Trainer (above right), an early flight simulator, on display. It is representative of a series of some 10,000 “Blue Boxes” that helped qualify more than 500,000 airmen during and after World War II.
Our smallest World War II artifact on exhibit now is probably the stamped metal photo ID badge (right) issued to employee No. 1, C.E. Woolman, Delta’s principal founder and first CEO. Delta issued employee identification badges as a wartime security measure. Mr. Woolman’s badge was donated by his grandson, Clayton Preston.
DNH: In addition to the collections on display in the museum, can you provide highlights of wartime items housed in the archives?
MF: There are wartime, military service and veteran artifacts, as well as photos, housed in the archives from Delta and its family of airlines. These items include:
- Flight log books from Sybil Peacock, one of Delta’s first flight attendants, showing her service with Delta and as a U.S. Navy Flight Nurse during World War II
- Photos and cold-weather gear worn by airline employees operating World War II military supply routes in the Arctic, including Northwest Airlines
- World War II Air Transport Command uniforms and insignia (right) worn by Delta and Western Airlines pilots
- Photos and a story from a Delta mechanic on military leave during the Korean War, who was happy to see a bit of “home” in Tokyo: Delta’s DC-4 Ship 73, which transported personnel and supplies
- A flight suit worn by a Northeast Airlines flight attendant, who visited Vietnam and helped distribute Christmas gifts to a squadron in 1968
- A scrapbook with touching thank you letters from troops who spent time in Delta’s first airport military lounges, a volunteer-led effort by employees during the 1971 holiday season
- A Delta flag flown in Iraq by an employee who served in the National Guard during Operation Northern Watch in 1999
- Memorabilia and photos from Delta and Northwest Airlines’ participation in Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) charters
- Helmet worn by an employee who served in the Persian Gulf War (currently on loan from the employee)
DNH: Are there future initiatives planned to bring more of the wartime items from the archives into displays at the museum?
MF: Yes, our Exhibits Manager, Tim Frilingos, is currently planning an exhibit opening in March 2017 highlighting employees’ transition from military service to civilian work.
For more on exhibits, visit the musuem’s website.