BOYERTOWN — After three years and countless volunteer hours, the General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Forces Museum hosted its grand opening.
A self-guided immersive World War II-era experience that places visitors in living history interactive exhibits, the museum is dedicated to Boyertown native Gen. Carl Spaatz and all from his hometown that served in WWII in uniform or at home in support.
With about 250 in attendance, Oct. 2 event began with live music from the 1940s and a display of military vehicles.
Boyertown Mayor Marianne Deery spoke at the dedication ceremony, “Listen to this,” she said to the gathered crowd, “General Carl Spaatz National United States Army Airforce Museum – Wow! Right here in Boyertown.”
“It is my hope that young people become inspired by what’s in this museum, behind these doors, that they will continue the heritage that has been laid right before them.” — Boyertown Mayor Marianne Deery
The museum was founded by retired Marine Corps Col. Keith A Seiwell.
“Col. Keith Seiwell not only had a dream, but he also had a mission. And behind these doors is the realization of his mission,” said Deery. “The displays are impressive, to say the least.”
To learn the history of a four-star general is a must-read but Deery is also impressed by the men and women who serve from the local area.
“Some came home and some didn’t. The men and women that served, as well as those men and women who serve today, solidifies in my mind the guts of Boyertown area,” said Deery. “It is my hope that young people become inspired by what’s in this museum, behind these doors, that they will continue the heritage that has been laid right before them.”
Deery dedicated the newly renamed General Carl Spaatz Avenue.
“From now on, our address is not 28 Warwick Street. It is number 10 General Carl Spaatz Avenue,” said Seiwell, founder and CEO of the museum.
The legacy of Ge. Carl Spaatz is not well known outside of military circles, and certainly does not rise to the importance of his contribution to our success as a nation, said Seiwell.
“Current and future generations should know of Carl Spaatz’s contribution to the American victory in WWII, and consequently our leadership position in world affairs,” he said.
Promoting and preserving his legacy is the museum’s goal.
“The evolution of the United States Air Force as we know it today would not be possible without Carl Spaatz,” said Seiwell. “He is known as the Architect of Air Supremacy, a guiding principle in modern warfare, but incomprehensible to those around him at the beginning of WWII.”
Some noted facts about General Carl Spaatz
• Eisenhower said he was “One of the two greatest generals of WWII.
• He commanded the Army Air Corp in North Africa, Europe and the Pacific in WWII.
• He was the overall commander of the units that provided air cover for the D-Day invasion.
• He commanded the Army Air Corp unit that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
• He pioneered aerial refueling, keeping an airplane, “The Question Mark,” in the air for 150 hours.
• President Truman named Gen. Spaatz Chief of Staff when the US Air Force was established in 1947.
• After his death in 1974, he was interred on the ground of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“Among the giants of America’s military leadership during WWII, Spaatz has gotten too little notice. This museum will change that,” said Seiwell.
Museum Tours & Displays
The living museum concept includes almost 6,000 square feet of museum space comprising 10 exhibits, of which six are featured as interactive.
The self-guided tours of the museum feature audio descriptions, including the career of Carl Spaatz career and the experience of a WWII pilot.
Visitors are immersed in the world of aerial warfare with everything from attending pre-flight briefings, donning gear and equipment to piloting a bomber and acting as waist gunners and bombardiers.
There is also an Escape Room experience where guests search for clues before progressing to the next room.
Explaining the inspiration for the inclusion of an Escape Room experience, Seiwell said, “Being shot down in enemy territory was a terrifying and common occurrence among allied crews. To be captured was lucky considering the alternative, and attempting to escape was an order written into the prisoner code of conduct. The heroism of the French resistance and cruelty of the Germans camp guards are well documented. It would not be a valid experience without it.”
Catherine and Michael McCaleb attended the museum opening because Catherine’s grandfather, Rev. Peter W. Smith, 381 Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, was a World War II POW in Belgium.
“They had made a radio in my grandfather’s prison camp with flashlight batteries and parts,” said Catherine. “They would listen to all of these foreign radio reports. There was a report that was all in broken English. Every once in a while they would throw in one word for the prisoners that they knew were listening. On D-Day, they (the guards) were trying to convince all of the prisoners that it was a terrible failure but the radio broadcast snuck the word success into the broadcast.”
A Monopoly board game is on display in the POW Barracks exhibit. Melissa Taylor from the Military Vehicle Club explained how the makers of the board game hid maps and files and key blanks in the game boards hoping they would be sent in care packages to POWs helping them to escape.
“It’s funny because you think, ‘Oh! It’s just a kid’s game, but even they (the game makers) were doing whatever they could to support the troops,” said Taylor.
Building a Museum
“(Seiwell) came into Boyertown as a stranger with an idea,” said Tom Gosse, director of marketing for the museum, explaining the origins of the General Carl Spaatz National U.S. Army Air Forces Museum.
“It’s really not that long, this vision. I remember when Keith (Seiwell) came into my office, only a few years ago and told me what he thought he could capture of a Boyertown native. I thought, Wow! That’s really awesome,” said Rep. David M. Maloney Sr.
“You want a Marine Colonel, not from Boyertown, to head a group to build a museum for Gen. Spaatz,” said Charles Haddad of the Museum Board of Directors.
“Col. Seiwell, it is with a great deal of pride, we of Boyertown and the borough and this community thank you for what you have done to bring this museum to what it is today,” said Haddad before introducing the Colonel’s daughter Sara Seiwell.
Sara presented her father with a plaque honoring Seiwell: “A man who dedicated his life to military service had a vision to honor Gen. Carl Spaatz of Boyertown with a museum dedicated to him and all from his hometown that served in World War II in uniform or at home in support. They will be remembered and honored in this museum.”
A KC-135 air tanker and two WWII-era T-6 Trainer airplanes flew over the museum just before Rebecca Palo, granddaughter of Spaatz, cut the ribbon, officially opening the museum.
”It’s really nice to see him (General Carl Spaatz) honored,” said his granddaughter, Rebecca Palo.
“He would have hated it,” she joked. “He really deserves it. I love that it is about everyone, the whole community and about everyone who served – that he would have liked.”
“I have never seen a community quite like Boyertown where people come together to make things happen in this community that you don’t see in other communities across Pennsylvania. I’m not knocking any other area but I’ve not seen this type of support and cooperation in any community like I see here in Boyertown,” said Berks County Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach. “That’s what makes Boyertown different – it’s everyone, it’s community.”
The museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry for self-guided tours will end at 3 p.m. as the tour takes about one hour. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit https://www.spaatzmuseum.org/ or call 484-945-3402.
Source: Berkshire mont