By KARIN LEPERI
Whether you fly-in or drive-in to Fredericksburg, this quaint Texas hill-country town is a memorable experience on many fronts.
First and foremost, the town reverently remembers the U.S. role in World War II. From the World War II-themed Hangar Hotel, Airport Diner and the static display of a DC-3 at the county airport where you can fly-in and tie-down for the night, to the Smithsonian-quality National Museum of the Pacific War, there is more than enough facts, remembrances, and history to engage any military, history, or aviation buff for a weekend and more.
The publicly-owned Gillespie County Airport (T82) boasts a 5,002-foot runway, with a full-length parallel taxiway. Located at an elevation of 1,695 feet, the field averages about 44 aircraft operations a day — most general aviation. About 66% is local general aviation with 31% attributed to transient general aviation. Air taxi and military make up the difference.
Brand new service facilities at the Fredericksburg FBO include a lobby, concierge service, on-site car rentals, and pilot-only amenities such as a dedicated flight planning area, sleeping space, and high speed internet. Plus, it features a 12,000-square-foot insulated hangar and 1.5 acres of outdoor aircraft parking space. Avgas and Jet-A is provided by truck during operating hours or by appointment. Self-serve fueling is available 24 hours a day.
Next door to the ramp is the Hangar Hotel and Airport Diner, where you can land and taxi right up to the front for check-in or a quick bite.
The Hangar Hotel is a total experience that whisks you back in time to the 1940s, inviting you to grab a chair on the second story observation deck to watch arriving and departing aircraft, sip a drink at the Officers Club, or stroll the hangar grounds for vintage displays of World War II memorabilia.
A great hotel for airplane aficionados, it also honors veterans by giving special rates. Be sure to mention it when making reservations.
If you are planning on just dropping in, be sure to check out whether any major events are happening in town. Rooms book up quickly for weekends and special happenings, so call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Also, be sure to check out the Airport Diner, where you can watch planes takeoff and land while dining on a delicious Bomber Burger and a chocolate malt. The diner sports a 1940s motif as well, with terrazzo floors, black granite counter and booth tops, along with lots of stainless steel.
But the real World War II treasure is the National Museum of the Pacific War, located three miles away in the heart of town. Many wonder why the museum is located in a land-locked area such as Fredericksburg. But when they discover that Fredericksburg was the hometown of war hero Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet during World War II, it makes perfect sense. The grandson of German immigrants who helped found the town of Fredericksburg in the mid-1800s, Nimitz would rise from his humble Texas beginnings to eventually become one of the most admired admirals in the war.
Plan on spending at least half a day, if not longer, as this is reputedly the most comprehensive museum about the Pacific War in the world. Using multimedia and interactive exhibits as well as artifacts, the museum chronicles all U.S. services that fought in the Pacific theater — the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. (The Air Force was still part of the Army during World War II).
And while the museum focuses on military operations and major campaigns, it also dedicates several galleries to probing the internal struggles and regional conflicts that eventually led up to the Pacific War, as well as the victory celebrations after the end of the war.
The George H.W. Bush Gallery has more than 33,000 square feet of indoor displays with exhibits that include tanks, aircraft, submarines, bombs, guns, and military artifacts that were used during the war. Don’t miss seeing the Japanese two-man midget sub, I-24, which was recovered intact from the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. Her gyroscope failed, running the midget sub and pilot aground on Oahu, where both were promptly captured.
A favorite of many is the B-25 bomber from the Doolittle Raid. Ready for takeoff, it is set against a wall mural of the deck of the USS Hornet. This is a striking portrayal of the Jimmy Doolittle Raid that finally gave a much needed psychological boost to the American war effort.
From the “Seeds of Conflict” to the “Price of Freedom,” the galleries unabashedly portray the good, bad, and ugly of war.