Carnegie Museum of Kings County presents exhibition celebrating history of Naval Air Station Lemoore

The history of the U.S. Navy’s largest master jet base will be celebrated in an exhibition presented by the Carnegie Museum of Kings County from Sept. 25-Oct. 24.

Naval Air Station Lemoore is the premiere training center for the carrier-based strike fighter squadrons of the Pacific Fleet. Commissioned in 1961, it is home base for the fleet’s F/A-18E/F Strike Fighter and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. While NAS Lemoore might be best known for its aviators and jets, there is much more to the base and the people who have worked, lived and been stationed there.

Shedding light on the enormity and complexity of the enterprise is a key objective of the exhibition. Another goal is to raise an awareness of the base’s longstanding and important presence in the area. “A lot of what we do is hidden on the base and in the air,” said Capt. Douglas Peterson, the base’s commanding officer.

“This exhibition will give people an opportunity to see what we do, why we do it and how we do it. It will also underscore how long we’ve been in the Valley and what we have contributed and accomplished in the past 60 years.” Clark Valceschini, a former NAS Lemoore aviator, is the lead curator of the exhibition.

He has spent the past several weeks overseeing the collection and assembly of the exhibits, which will include a historical timeline of the construction and operations of the base, displays from the many squadrons stationed in Lemoore, and stories about local POWs and the challenges they faced during the Vietnam war.

Additional exhibits will feature a pilot ready room, an aircraft carrier flight deck, a search and rescue helicopter squadron and other entities Valceschini says are essential to keeping naval aviation “mission ready.”

A highlight of the exhibition will be a fighter jet ejection seat that was used on the set of an upcoming and much-anticipated film about Navy pilots.

Visitors will be able to have their photos taken next to the device. This is the first major exhibition for the recently established Carnegie Museum of Kings County (CMKC) and is being presented with the financial support of the Association of Naval Aviation (ANA). Jack Schwartz, president of the CMKC board, said the base is a fitting subject for the group’s inaugural event.

“Our museum’s mission is to work with community members to bring Kings County’s history to life through preservation and education. NAS Lemoore has been a valued part of the Kings County community since 1961 in good times and not so good times,” Schwartz said. “Many of us remember growing up during the trying times associated with the base’s squadrons’ roles in the Vietnam war, both the bravery and the losses.

The base has been, and continues to be, at the forefront of the evolution of naval aviation.”

The Carnegie Museum of Kings County is located at 109 E. Eighth St. in Hanford. The NAS Lemoore exhibition will be open to the public Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

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