Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Spruce Goose, A Flying Fortress and the Cadillac of the Skies at Evergreen

A chance to see the Spruce Goose up close was one opportunity I wouldn't miss. During a road trip from San Francisco to Seattle some years back, I made sure to schedule stops for a few days along the way, including a visit to see this wooden marvel.   

Growing up, I've always been fascinated with aircraft from World War II, and the stories and exploits of each aircraft during the war. And to see these historic warbirds up close has always been a childhood dream. Located in McMinnville, an hour's drive from Portland, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum has one of the most impressive private collections of historic aircraft, including legendary aircraft from World War II and Howard Hughes' iconic Spruce Goose. For more photos of the historic collection at Evergreen Avuation & Space Museum, see my post in my other blog here at

Made entirely of wood, hence the name "Spruce Goose," (though the aircraft was made from birch) it was the largest aircraft built at the time, with four props on each wing to lift the massive weight. Originally designed as a troop and cargo transport during World War II, the Spruce Goose flew only once, piloted by Howard Hughes himself in 1947. Like the reclusive Hughes, the Spruce Goose remained hidden for years until it arrived at Evergreen, and formally unveiled in 2001, fully restored. The immense size is immediately noticeable as you walk closer, dwarfing all the other preserved aircraft near it. You can even climb aboard the Spruce Goose and observe the wood framed interiors. Awed and impressed, the Spruce Goose was every bit as grand as I imagined. The sheer size, the vision of the man behind it, and it's history make it special. And to be able to touch it was even more special.  

Many more historic aircraft are displayed at the museum, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, America's lead bomber during the daring and dangerous daylight bombing campaign over Germany in World War II. Bristling with guns on all sides, the aircraft was literally a "flying fortress." I remember the classic movies featuring the historic B-17, like "Memphis Belle" and its brave crew, one of the few planes to complete 25 missions over Europe.

Other favorites spotted at the museum include the P-38 Lightning, a twin-tailed fighter bomber that gained a fearsome reputation in both the European and Pacific theaters of war. Fully restored in its original colors, with its impressive "kills" marked on the sides, the P-38 Lightning was flown by some of America's top aces during the war.

The "Cadillac of the Skies," the P-51 Mustang, and probably the best fighter in World War II, gained fame as a long-range fighter escort accompanying the B-17 in countless raids over Germany. Armed with drop tanks and enough fuel to go all the way to Germany and back, the P-51 Mustang provided the much needed support to protect the bombers from Germany's fighters. Seen in the familiar "invasion stripes" of the allied forces during the D-Day landings, the P-51 with its distinct bubble canopy was one of the real gunslingers of the era.  Sleek and graceful, the P-51 is featured in numerous films, including Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Tuskegee Airmen, and Red Tails. Further down, one can spot the familiar gull-winged F4-U Corsair, the Supermarine Spitfire, the deadly Messerschmitt, and many more. So much more...

Outside the museum, other historic aircraft can be seen including the workhorse of the military, the C-47 Skytrain. The primary troop and cargo transport of the allied forces, the C-47 is best known for airdropping the allied airborne divisions during the Normandy invasion and Airborne operations in Holland in Operation Market Garden, as featured in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. The cool thing with all the displays at Evergreen is that you can come up close and touch the aircraft, and reconnect with your childhood dreams. You can walk at your own pace, and explore each and every exhibit as close as you want to.

The museum includes other special displays, including modern fighter jets, helicopters and historical pieces from the Space program, but seeing the vintage war birds alone are enough reasons for a visit to Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Touching the Spruce Goose, and the various World War II aircraft on display was like touching history. And to hear the stories of each aircraft from the staff of volunteer guides at the museum completes your experience.  


  1. I saw the Spruce Goose 1985 in Long Beach together with the QUEEN MARY. I was on a tour around the world.

    1. Hi Klaus, seeing the Spruce Goose ad the Queen Mary must've been an awesome sight! Thanks for visiting my blog!


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