The free museum at the base of the control tower is small, but interesting with the basics of the history of the airfield included. Climbing the Control tower is allowed and offers a little better view of the base.
In the Museum among other things there is a small diarama of the airfield at the height of activity.
There an old propeller with signatures on it of some of the 384th bomb group.
There is a replica of Little Boy, the bomb that changed the world.
This is really a historic place. I had no idea until visiting how much was left and the true significance of this little airstrip in the desert. Now days the jets come from Hill Air Force Base to practice bombing their targets. But back in the '40's they all stayed in Wendover.
During the last years of World War II Wendover was a busy place, with over 19,000 military personnel, including Colonel Paul Tippets who eventually performed the historic mission, support crews and civilians. The purpose at that time was to prepare the crew and the Enola Gay, a specially equipped B-29 bomber, which carried the atomic bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima.
It was a good place to practice. Lots of empty desert, flat space to land, remote and isolated so little information could trickle out and close to the railroad tracks which would bring the payload to the plane.
And because Wendover never really grew in the years afterwards much of the airfield remains. 5 large hangars including the largest which housed the Enola Gay, are all original though deteriorating. The tower is original, a block of barracks, the pool is still there though no longer used. The hospital complex also remains.
A restoration committee is actively pursuing funding with plans to restore all the hangers, the service club, the bomb loading pit, and more. When we visited 4 of the 5 hangars had received a new coat of white paint and the Enola Gay hangar had all new windows.
We spent a relaxed hour or two reading and looking and driving the old base.
While we visited the museum I thought of my father and called to talk to him about his short stay at Wendover during his WWII army tour. He was part of the 864th Engineer Aviation Battalion. His unit was transferred several times while they waited to get on the ship that would take him to the South Pacific for the duration of the war. He remembers maybe three weeks in Wendover. I looked up the history one of his battalion wrote and they were there from June 5 to July 19th 1943. So a little longer than three weeks with not much to do but help build a few rifle ranges and repair the runway. This was during the time that 20 Heavy Bomb Groups were trained at the airfield. It would be another year before the Atomic Group, "Project Alberta" arrived for their training.
Dad remembers the heat but not much else. The stay must have impressed him somewhat though since he has mentioned it regularly over the years.
935 East Wendover Boulevard, PO Box 400, Wendover, Utah, 84083, United States
Good for: Business
505 E Wendover Blvd, P.O. Box 538 (formerly Heritage Motel), Wendover, Utah, 84083, United States
Good for: Families
245 E WENDOVER BLVD, Wendover, UT 84083
Good for: Business
685 E Wendover Blvd, Wendover, UT 84083
Good for: Couples
561 E Wendover Blvd
Good for: Families
1325 Wendover Blvd.,P.O. Box 2259, Wendover, Utah
Somewhere back in the far reaches of the last century someone thought to put a message along the side of the long straight road through the flat empty desert. It caught on. All along the road are found messages written with rocks. They eventually settle into the sand/mud/alkaline but until then trying to figure out what they say at 80mph can be a little tricky.
Stop and add your own should you feel so inclined.
I'm not sure I get the metaphor, but the Tree of Utah is still a wonderful sculpture to interrupt the monotony of the drive along I-80 through the Great Salt Lake Desert.
Created, built and paid for by Swedish artist Karl Momen and finished in 1986 the 87ft tall abstract tree now belongs to the state of Utah. There is a small turn off if you are heading west, but no explanation.
One of the natural wonders of the west is the Great Salt Lake, one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth. Left behind as it has shrunk are the Bonneville Salt Flats. Located at the base of Pilot Peak at the western edge of the Great Salt Lake desert just minutes from Wendover, the salt flats are a fragile crust of salt on more solid clay. They can be startling white and are so large and flat you can see the curvature of the earth. The reality of their size creeps up on you when you walk any distance on them. You walk and walk and never seem to gain any ground. Sometimes the mountains in the distance look like they are floating due to a mirage effect. During the winter they are often covered with a thin layer of water which evaporates in the dry spring air renewing the salt for another year.
Every year in late summer during speed week (of which I think there are several), racers and cars and motorcycles come to test themselves against the salt, to see how fast they can go. The end of the 10 mile track is not visible from the start. Cars line up, having been inspected and approved for trial, waiting for their turn and then have a chance to show they can go fast enough for a second trial.
The fastest cars were raced here for years. The land speed record was last set on a similar playa in Nevada, but Utahns can still recall Ab Jenkins Mormon Meteor and Craig Breedlove's Spirit of America which were on display at the State Capitol.
The movie "The Fastest Indian" is a wonderful tale of an Aussie who came to race his Indian Motorcycle.
The salt flats can be seen in commercials and movies. "Independence Day" has a particularly wonderful scene there. On our last visit it was being used as a backdrop for wedding pictures.
Driving on the salt is not recommended without some idea of the strength of the salt and the general area. The race track itself may even be off limits except during race weeks in order to preserve the best surface.
There is a rest stop just east of Wendover on both sides of the freeway to see the salt flats. The one on the north side (going west) is slightly better due to the fact the best part of the salt flats are on that side.
You can also drive to the beginning of the race track from Wendover.
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