Air Force base lives on as museum
Marquette – — The Cold War is over, but the memories linger — and they’re memories that should be kept alive.
That’s one reason for the creation of the K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum in the former Silver Wings Recreation Center at the former U.S. Air Force base.
The facility, though, is more than just a place to share war stories.
The museum was founded by members of local Air Force Association Lake Superior Chapter 238 in 1993 when it was learned Sawyer Air Force Base was going to be shut down.
“They knew they were going to close, and there wouldn’t be anything left, and they wanted to preserve the history,” said Bob Vick of Marquette, president and chief executive officer of the museum.
The museum moved over the years before being housed in its current site. Money and manpower continue to be challenges, but Vick said former residents love the museum.
“They thank us every day, I guess, for doing what we did, even though it’s difficult,” he said.
Vick, who served in Vietnam, knows military history well. He was stationed at Sawyer from 1977-82 as communications maintenance superintendent, taking care of the control tower and radar. Six months later, he was back at work in civil service for the Air Force.
The Sawyer base officially shut down on Sept. 30, 1995, ending an era that began in 1954 when the U.S. government negotiated with Marquette County for the lease of 5,278 acres to become the new base.
Does Vick agree with the closing?
“Well, in a way, no, but I understand why, because the base was here because of what we called the Cold War, and they had to scatter their bombers and tankers out to keep Russia from destroying everything with one missile,” Vick said.
K.I. Sawyer is peppered with abandoned buildings. However, the museum, with its artifacts and displays, gives visitors a sense of what life was like when the base was active during its Cold War heyday.