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Mon, May 26, 2008

Museum Unveils F-100 Restoration In Time For Memorial Day

Aircraft Displayed In Honor of Local Vietnam Veteran

Just in time for national remembrance of veterans this Memorial Day, a growing aviation museum in Tyler, TX unveiled its latest aircraft display on Saturday in honor of a local man who flew the type over Vietnam. 

The Historical Aviation Memorial Museum (HAMM) located at the Tyler Pounds Field Airport dedicated a North American F-100 Super Sabre restored and painted in the markings of one flown by Lt. Col Paul N. Cohagan over the skies of North and South Vietnam in the 60's.

Known as the "Hun" by pilots and mechanics, the silver F-100 gleamed on the airport tarmac as a crowd of more than one hundred veterans and guest gathered to honor the man and the aircraft he loved.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph reports the restoration project was funded by Lt. Col. Cohagen's daughter, Anne Coleman and the work was performed by John Mustard, HAMM's maintenance director, and volunteers Jim Alexander, Bob Strong, Gary Carden, and Tim Spence in a little over a year.  The aircraft came to the museum from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. 

The F-100 needed some exterior work before it was ready to go on display.  When the aircraft was repainted, it was given the markings and symbols associated with Cohagen's aircraft that was part of the 481st Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam in 1964. 

Ms. Coleman made one change to the markings herself, adding a personal touch to the aircraft by changing the nose decal from the original that showed a leprechaun lying down to one of a green four leaf clover as a reminder of the aluminum four leaf clover "good luck charm" she gave her father at the age of seven before he was deployed to Vietnam.

The charm served Cohagan well.

First taking flight at the age of 12, Cohagen went on to graduate from flight school in 1954 and served a 22 year career in the U.S. Air Force flying most advanced aircraft of the time.  According to Ms. Coleman, her father continued flying after his career with the Air Force ended.  When he passed away in 2005, Cohagen had spent 61 years as a pilot.

HAMM docent and former F-100 pilot Bill Halbert, called the "Hun" one of the most advanced fighter jets at the time it was built. He said around 2,300 F-100 Super Sabres were produced between 1953 and 1969 and was used by the US Air Force until it's retirement in 1972. F-100s flew more than 360,000 sorties, more than any other aircraft in Vietnam but its effectiveness was hampered by improved enemy defenses later in the war.

Ms. Coleman said seeing and touching the plane has reconnected her with her fathers memory and as a result, is very emotional when around the aircraft.  She did not speak at the dedication for that reason.

"I would have just lost it," she said. "It was great to work with the people of such a great organization to promote what this aircraft did and what these soldiers did and continue to do."

FMI: www.tylerhamm.com

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