Heart of Louisiana: Air Force One

Heart of Louisiana: Air Force One

(WVUE) - It's an unlikely place to find a piece of presidential history. In fact, it's a rather large piece - an aircraft that served as Air Force One 60 years ago.

It's a museum that tells the story of war veterans from Southeast Louisiana, the Regional Military Museum in downtown Houma.

"Whether it's World War II, whether it's the Korean War or Vietnam or any of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we just want to be a military museum that exemplifies the things that involve military," said C.J. Christ.

Those things include a jet fighter, a Vietnam-era helicopter, working tanks, an exhibit on German U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico during World War II and a presidential airplane from the 1950s

The Aero Commander is the smallest aircraft to carry the name Air Force One. And it still has the presidential blue and white paint job and the official seal. This airplane can still fly. In fact, all of the upholstery, the finishings, the instrumentation, is original equipment for this airplane from the 1950s

It was mostly used for short presidential trips out of Washington.

"If he wanted to go to England or go to Los Angeles or someplace like this, he would get in a big airplane with all of the press corps and all that. This he used mostly to go to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In fact, we have a picture of this airplane taxing on the grass," Christ said.

The Houma museum also has the flight logs that list all of the trips, and passengers who flew with President Eisenhower.

"A lot of history, and say that field marshal Montgomery didn't get along with Eisenhower when he was General Eisenhower. Well, we went to some of the records and there we see that field marshal Montgomery was a guest aboard this airplane to go to Eisenhower's farm in Gettysburg," Christ said.

The mini Air Force One had to be moved by crane, by barge and truck from a state museum 40 miles away in the town of Patterson.

"I was a great admirer of General Eisenhower and president Eisenhower, and so sitting in the seat where he was sitting in a seat - it's kind of a thrill, you know" I'll have to admit," Christ said

The museum has been around for more than a decade and is completing a major expansion, with 18,000 square feet of new exhibit space creating more room for major artifacts and more stories from area veterans who have served their country.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.