Viewport: Building a Wall of Support
- By J.R. Dailey
- Air & Space magazine, July 2010
"Viewport," by National Air and Space Museum director J.R. Dailey, opens each issue of Air & Space magazine. The column highlights the Museum's ongoing efforts to preserve the history of aviation and spaceflight. This article appeared in the June / July 2010 issue of Air & Space.
One of my chief pleasures in the 10 years I’ve been director of the National Air and Space Museum has been watching the progress of the Museum’s Wall of Honor. Constructed along the walkway leading to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia, the wall had more than 8,000 names when we opened the Center in December 2003. We have now inscribed the names of almost 20,000 individuals and associations, and the list continues to grow.
Whose names are on the wall? Some of the first names inscribed belong to the giants of aviation and space exploration: Wilbur and Orville Wright, Jimmy Doolittle, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and others. In that fine company are the names of people with a passion for flight, and their donations, or the donations made on their behalf, helped us build the Udvar-Hazy Center and are continuing to help with our plans there. Some are pilots who themselves are part of aviation history. Others are aviation or space enthusiasts who merely wish to support the preservation of aerospace history. On page 14 of this issue, you’ll find the stories behind three of the donors who added names to the wall.
As the names have multiplied, the wall’s setting has grown more beautiful. The trees and landscaping have matured. The wall is composed of stainless steel airfoils that weigh 750 pounds each, so when we say it is a permanent monument, we mean permanent. And we treat it with the respect memorials deserve: We tend the plants and remove snow from the airfoils. (The latter was a real challenge during the past winter, when we got more than three feet of snow.)
Perhaps the most significant of the wall’s features is its place of honor near the nation’s most prominent air and space museum. All who visit the Udvar-Hazy Center to learn about the history of aviation and space exploration walk by the names of those who helped create that history and in whose names it is being preserved.
Donations now being made to engrave names on the Wall of Honor are helping us complete Phase Two of the Udvar-Hazy Center, which will include the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar; an Archive Unit for print, photographic, and film documentation; and a Collections Storage Facility with state-of-the-art environmental controls to preserve our treasures.
If you read this column regularly, you know that my father was a U.S. Marine Corps aviator who flew the F4U Corsair in World War II and who inspired my own career in Marine aviation. Several years ago, I put my dad’s name on the wall. I did it for the same reason everybody else has for placing a name on the Wall of Honor: I wanted to create a permanent memorial for somebody important to me. And I feel great satisfaction every time I walk by and see my dad’s name surrounded by the names of others who loved flying.
J.R. Dailey is the director of the national Air and Space Museum.