PAMPA, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – In Pampa, resides the Freedom Museum USA which features a large collection of military memorabilia spanning decades.
The purpose of the museum is to educate and allow those who visit to connect with history and hear the stories of those who served.
Located in the old water pumping station in Pampa that was built in 1939 thanks to the Public Works Administration is the Freedom Museum USA.
The museum has been open since 1994, but the idea for the museum started in the ’80s.
“There was an air base east of town, Pampa Army Air Field, so the Pampa Army Air Field Reunion Association in conjunction with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1657 got together and decided they needed a museum and they started that in about ’86,” said Della Moyer, special exhibits coordinator at Freedom Museum USA.
According to the Texas Historical Commission Association, The Pampa Army Air Field was established in the summer of 1942 on a site about eleven miles east of Pampa. The Pampa Army Air Field offered advanced twin-engine training in AT-10s and also stationed at the field were AT-9s, B-25s, and AT-17s. According to THSA, sixteen B-25s from the field took part in the bombing of Tokyo; of them, fifteen were lost, and one accidentally landed in Russia, where it remains. During its three years of operation, the base graduated 6,292 cadets, trained 3,500 aircraft mechanics, and had one of the best safety records in the United States Training Command throughout the war. The Pampa Army Air Force Base would close on September 30, 1945, after just three years of operation.
When visitors come to the museum they can see items from the Civil War all the way up through conflicts in the Middle East.
The museum also features a veteran hall of honor.
“We also have the Panhandle Veteran Hall of Honor on the north wall. It’s got 137 people from the Texas Panhandle counties who have been nominated as outstanding service members and community people if they lived to come back,” said Moyer, “There were several who were killed in action, there are four Medal of Honor recipients, there is a survivor of the US Indianapolis. There is one woman on there who was certified to fly every aircraft out there in World War II.”
Moyer added that all branches of the United States Armed Forces are represented in the museum and exhibits are both official and private memorabilia from military and civilian sources.
Outside the museum are various static displays that represent wars from World War II through the Middle East, including a B-25 bomber that represents the dozens of B-25s that were among the training aircraft at the Pampa Army Air Field, these were the same type of aircraft which Col. Jimmy Doolittle and his raiders used in the bombing of Japan. An F-4E, which is representative of the plane flown by Pampa native Jimmy Ayers, who was killed in action when his F4 was shot down during the Vietnam War, an F105D Thunderchief fighter/bomber that was based at Korat Royal Thailand Air Force Base during another Pampa man’s tour from 1971-1973.
You’ll also see an M60 tank, one of the world’s most successful main battle tanks. These tanks were deployed in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This tank was located on the lawn of the Potter County Courthouse for many years; however was relocated to the Freedom Museum when the courthouse was restored.
Finally, visitors will see a Coast Guard helicopter. This helicopter is designated as a “fallen heroes aircraft” due to a crash in 1981 while stationed in Kodiak Alaska which resulted in the loss of the entire crew. The helicopter washed ashore several days later, was recovered, and sent to Elizabeth City, North Carolina where it was restored, refitted, and returned to service. In 1983, this craft responded to a distress call regarding the Maine Electric as she floundered in a heavy storm. At that time, the Coast Guard had no rescue swimmers and remained on station until those swimmers arrived. Because of the tragic loss of the Maine Electric, Maritime Law was changed and the Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer program was born. The helicopter remained in service participating in rescues, interdiction flights, hurricane surveys, and relief flights until 1992, when she was officially retired.
On top of the hundreds of artifacts displayed in the museum, there are also stories of the men and women who served in the armed forces.
“We have the Vietnam display, we have 13 stories, personal accounts of local men who shared their information about their time in Vietnam. A lot of them have since passed away. It’s very moving to spend time with those guys to get those stories,” added Moyer.
Moyer said sharing the stories on top of showcasing the artifacts gives visitors a different look at history.
“We have the ability to teach people who don’t know what it was really like,” Moyer continued, “You connect a person with a personal story and it maybe piques their interest to where they will go read a book or hopefully watch a documentary, instead of an expanded movie. I don’t know it’s more of a personnel experience.”
Moyer also added that all the volunteers at the museum are veterans.
“The man that is here the majority of the time, who was in Vietnam, one of his stories is on one these banners and he loves to take people through this area and say, and tell his personal account and there is nothing more moving about history than hearing it from a personal perspective and that is why we try to do as many interviews and things as we can get,” said Moyer.
The Freedom Museum USA also has a Memorial Park that lists the names of those in Gray County who gave the ultimate sacrifice, from World War II until Vietnam. Moyer added that the community hasn’t lost anyone in combat since Vietnam.
The Freedom Museum USA is open Tuesday through Saturday from Noon until 4 PM, but Moyer added you can also call to make special arrangements as well.
Moyer added that the museum is free to visit and is totally funded by donations.
She said they are also a part of the WOWW program, with over 900 students visiting last school year.