Dan King the representative for the South Dakota Air and Space Museum is passionate about the unique exhibits that just don’t exist anywhere else.
When asked to describe the museum, King says, “This museum is part of the Greater Air Force Museum Command and it’s actually part of Ellsworth Air Force Base and under their control. And most almost all the exhibits in here are belong to the Air Force and including especially the aircraft that are outside and inside the museum. The museum, it has a what they call a foundation with a board of directors. And then there’s a service member, Technical Sergeant Victor Patterson, that is the curator of the museum, so he’s kind of in command, if you will, from the Air Forces point of view of the museum, under the base command.
King explains that the Stratobowl exhibit is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits. “There is more pieces from the balloons than anywhere else here in the museum. Instruments and pieces of the one gondola that blew up and so far, so the museum really has a lot to offer. We have Gallery One down here. It’s got uniforms and early aircraft and some some missiles and rockets are also down in this area. And then Gallery Two covers the Cold War and specifically like Vietnam, Korea, the Russian exhibit and the Berlin Airlift, which there were quite a few people that are from Rapid City that were heavily involved with the Berlin Airlift. There’s also a Minute Man exhibit over here on the other side that people can go in and see how the it was set up, down inside the Silos.”
The museum also has a display of Air Force uniforms and Army Air Corps uniforms dating back to WWI.
King, himself, is a veteran of the Vietnam War in 1969 and 1970 and then he also went back in 1973. He was in the US Army as a Chief Warrant Officer. King flew Huey helicopters in combat assaults. He also flew Charlie model gunships which were heavily armed helicopters that had rockets and miniguns.
When King reflects on the most meaningful part of his service, he says, “I joined the Army to go into helicopters to avoid the draft and if you talked to Vietnam Veterans that particularly served in those kind of positions, a lot of them did this because we didn’t want to be drafted. We didn’t want somebody to say, you’re going to go do this, so we wanted to make some of our own choices.”
If you would like to know more about the South Dakota Air and Space Museum, you can check out their website here.