A Big Step Forward
On November 11, 2020, the newly developed BAFB Exhibition will open on the Arkansas Aeroplex in Blytheville, Arkansas, completing the first phase in creation of The National Cold War Center. The small center, honoring the vast history of the former Eaker Air Force Base, will cut the ribbon officially at 11 a.m., in a brief opening ceremony. Regular hours will resume each Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. beginning November 13. “We are more than excited,” says center board chair Mary Gay Shipley. “We have worked for two years on this building because this base is an important piece of history. We also hope this work conveys how serious we are about the larger Cold War Center project. We have much more work to do, and we look forward to every moment of it.”
The BAFB Exhibition uses mementos, artefacts, and video to depict the history of the Blytheville installation, from its beginnings as a World War II Army Airfield and continuing through its role in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. The facility’s most notable years were during the expanse of the Cold War, when as a U. S. Air Force Strategic Air Command facility, Blytheville Air Force Base became number five on the Russian target list. This SAC experience, while portrayed in the BAFB Exhibition, also is the foundation for development of The National Cold War Center, which is highlighted in a special showcase room in the Exhibition.
Known as Building 202, the BAFB Exhibition is located on the flight line, adjacent to the tower and base operations compound. The 6,000-square-foot building last served as the headquarters for the 340th Bombardment Squadron, a B-52 Bomber unit. The building, now extensively remodeled, was abandoned except for periodic events, when the base closed in 1992.
The BAFB Exhibition and The National Cold War Center are in development under the auspices of a 501(c)3 organization. Ms Shipley is joined on the board by Barrett Harrison, vice chair; Michael Jacques, treasurer; Elizabeth Smith, secretary; and directors Billy Curl, Seth Holifield, Molly Jackson, Lisa John-Adams, and Cybelle Jones. The group began their work in late 2017. Professional support for The National Cold War Center includes Arkansas architects Polk Stanley Cox; Arkansas Contractor Clark Construction; international exhibit designers Gallagher & Associates; and fund development council, Celsinus, Inc. of Toledo, Ohio.