By Vince Guerrieri
At one time, Port Clinton Airport was home to Island Airlines, that flew between Port Clinton and the Lake Erie Islands. Today, the airport is home to the Liberty Aviation Museum, commemorating the plane behind the airline – the Ford Tri-Motor – and several World War II-era planes.
The Tri-Motor, nicknamed the “Tin Goose,” was one of the first planes made for commercial flight. Currently, a model of this historic plane is being rebuilt at the museum by the Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation. Much like the plane, the museum is currently a work in progress. Opening weekend was July 20-22, but pieces will continue to be added to the collection.
In August, the museum will open the Tin Goose Diner, a 1950s-era aluminum diner that was bought and relocated to the museum site from Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Displayed on opening weekend was a military ambulance that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of M*A*S*H*, and a World War II-era motorcycle. There were also re-enactors, including a woman dressed as Rosie the Riveter and people who looked like a period flight crew.
Also on display, was a uniform belonging to an airman who had a bounty for capture by Adolf Hitler himself: actor Clark Gable. Gable, a native of Cadiz, Ohio, joined the Army Air Forces after his wife Carole Lombard died in a plane crash. He flew several combat missions over Europe in World War II.
The museum will be home to a B-25 bomber and two patrol torpedo boats. PT 728, has been christened the "Thom Cat" in honor of Sandusky native, Leonard Thom, who served as John Kennedy’s executive officer on PT-109 and commanded his own ship – the Thom Cat – in the Pacific Theater of Operations in World War II. PT 728 is believed to be the only seaworthy PT boat in service. Many of the wood boats were burned at the end of the war, as metal-hulled boats became the norm.
The other PT boat, PT 724 – the numbers mean they were probably on the assembly line in Maryland at the same time – is currently in dry dock at the Catawba Island Club undergoing restoration. The boat was sold into private hands at the war’s end, and was converted into a cabin cruiser.
If you're in the area from Aug. 9-12 make sure to stop by the museum when the Commemorative Air Force Redtail Squadron brings a P-51C Mustang and the “Rise Above” traveling exhibit about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter pilots in the American military. Harold Brown, a local member of the Tuskegee Airmen, will also be on hand.