The Commerce Journal


April 10, 2012

Exploring the National Vietnam War Museum

COMMERCE — Ever since he took helicopter pilot training at Fort Wolters near Mineral Wells, Jim Messinger thought there should be some kind of museum to honor helicopter pilots who fought in Vietnam.

“It was called the helicopter war,” says Jim, who is treasurer of the National Vietnam War Museum board of directors and overseas the facility, located just outside Mineral Wells. “We worked with museum professionals and they; said if you’re going to build a museum about anything, it needs to be built someplace where it relates to the story. Ninety percent or more of the helicopter pilots in Vietnam trained here.”

The museum got started in 1994 as a result of a bunch of those pilots getting together and wanting to do something meaningful besides party. So they raised money, bought a 12-acre tract of land and set about to build a great museum. It’ll be housed inside a 50,000 square foot building with 11 galleries showing different aspects of the war.

One display on the drawing board is a replica of the rooftop rescues of people in Saigon. Visitors will walk up a ramp and see and hear helicopters picking up people and getting airborne. Another exhibit will feature a street scene in a Vietnam village. The visitor’s center, open 18 months, had people last year from 36 states and three countries. Many of the 40,000 pilots who trained at Fort Wolters come back to see the fort. Now they have another place to visit. Presently, the museum has a Huey helicopter atop a tall pole, a series of memorial gardens, a transport vehicle, and a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Wall. A temporary building that houses the headquarters and visitors center was once on President Bush’s ranch in Crawford acquired through a federal surplus property program.

The museum probes the question, “Did we win the war?” Jim and the others realized there was no national venue dedicated to examining the Vietnam era. The museum hopes to put the experience in broad perspective and present historical facts and consequences of the war.

Jim flew helicopters in Vietnam and later taught pilots at Fort Wolters.

 Prior to the service, he was on academic probation at Northern Illinois University and joined the Army to avoid the draft. After the military he graduated cum laude with two bachelor’s degrees in math and education, then earned a master’s and doctorate in management science (the use of computers and math to solve business problems). He worked for a while in computer programming.

When he learned about the museum, he jumped on board to help raise some $25,000,000 to build the museum. The Friends of the Museum organization had its annual fund-raiser on March 31. I’m honored to have been the keynote speaker.

The museum sends out a newsletter three times a year. Its website is “We think it’s the first war that was blamed on the soldier,” says Jim. “Wars are won, lost and fought by politicians.”

Text Only
  • This is ‘Our Commerce’

    Commerce, Texas is a unique community in north east Texas and yet in some ways very typical.

    June 26, 2014

  • IMG_2998.JPG Lions reveal true character

    Character is revealed during times of success and times of tragedy. Texas A&M University-Commerce, and specifically the Athletics Department, showed its character last week when two student-athletes were tragically killed in a car accident.

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Father's_Day_1.jpg A short history of Father's Day

    There are more than 70 million fathers in the United States today. 

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Judging pianists

    “The Van Cliburn Competition is the most important piano competition in the world,” says John Giordano of Fort Worth, who was chairman of the Van Cliburn jury for 40 years.

    June 10, 2014

  • Junk.jpg Enough with the junk

    Let’s play a game.

    May 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lessons learned from decades of making speeches

    I’ve been making speeches to various groups since 1973 when I made my first chamber of commerce speech in Dumas, Texas.

    May 27, 2014

  • Yard full of turtles

    Barbara Ellison of Cameron loves her backyard. It is full of flowers and birds. Occasionally a squirrel will drop in for a meal. “I could stay out here from morning ‘til night,” says Barbara. “It’s so pretty and we enjoy taking care of it.”

    May 13, 2014

  • Mapping Texas’ rocks

    Jim Runge of Eldorado is always doing unusual things.

    April 28, 2014

  • Motel a real winner

    I traveled to Kingsville to do some filming and interviewing on King Ranch.

    April 17, 2014

  • Fighting more than just fires

    For the past few weeks I’ve been attending a Citizen’s Fire Academy hosted by the Greenville Fire Department. 

    April 4, 2014

Featured Ads


How many games do you think the Lions will win in 2014?

7-9 wins
4-6 wins
1-3 wins
     View Results
Must Read
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide