Photo Credit: Michael Tefft

“Do you see the bullet marks?” Our docent asked us. Smiling, he was so happy he was showing us this little history secret of the museum.

Stretching my neck around the steel pipe, I could see not one bullet hole, but several. Raising my arm and pointing, he quickly added that there are multiple bullet holes from an air attack on the storage house. After five minutes at the Military Aviation Museum, I knew I was in for a unique experience, one that combined my love for travel and history.

Housing several Nazi planes and other WWII aircrafts that have been found all over the world, this particular hanger was originally built in Germany and later, after purchased by a private citizen, taken apart and rebuilt in Virginia Beach. It’s a special part of the WWII history and a building that the docents and entire museum staff hold very dear.

There was something about being in that hanger and seeing the bullet holes for myself that affected me in a strange way. I felt a chill down my spine, the whole experience was very real as I could reach out and touch the bullet holes. Before this experience and having never traveled to Germany, I did not have a personal connection to WWI or II. This personal experience connected me to this part of our history in a way schoolbooks could never do.

Besides the bullet holes, there was also a name carved into the side of the hanger - a Polish worker from the storage house in 1944. It’s little moments like this that make the experience of visiting the Military Aviation Museum so special.

Back in the two main hangers, the different types of Navy and Army fighter and rescue planes fascinated me. With all the planes lined up, it looked like something out of an old movie, but these planes were absolutely beautiful in their hangers, displayed perfectly for visitors to admire.

One of the most important and special parts of the museum and the planes is that most of them are still flyable. In fact, most planes are flown throughout the week. If you plan your visit right, you can watch as the planes take off and land around you.

Before planning your next visit to Virginia Beach, check and see if there is an air show that weekend. Besides the guarantee to see many of the planes from the museum flying above you, you’ll get a fascinating history lesson too.