Friday, September 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘A center for patriotism’: Doolittle Museum mission to showcase freedom’s saga

0320 Brian McInerneyW

CEO Brian McInerney talks about the Jimmy Doolittle Center Education Foundation's B-25. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | March 16, 2014 |

The year was 1942 …

Three months earlier, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. The United States and Japan were now at war.

Throughout Northern California, at airstrips from Alameda to Mather (including what is now Yolo County Airport), there were beehives of activity: B-25 Mitchell bombers were practicing into-the-wind takeoffs on abbreviated runways.

While most didn’t know it then, Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, a Bay Area native, was readying 80 men and 16 planes for his stirring reprisal attack on Tokyo.

While the Doolittle Raiders didn’t cause catastrophic damage, they provided a game-changing emotional lift for the American people.

So daunting to the psyche of the Japanese war effort was Doolittle’s reply to Pearl Harbor that the Japanese felt immediately compelled to knock out U.S. aircraft carriers.

In a hasty decision to engage the Americans at Midway Island, it was the Japanese who lost key carriers — meaning just seven months after that infamous sneak attack on Hawaii, the tide of World War II had already turned.

Courage, patriotism, resolve … words that many think are lost on a modern generation.

To wit, read an excerpt from President Ronald Reagan’s farewell address:

“And as for those who create the popular culture, well-grounded patriotism is no longer the style. Our spirit is back, but we haven’t reinstitutionalized it.

“We’ve got to do a better job on getting across that America is freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile. It needs (protection).

“So, we’ve got to teach history based not on what’s in fashion, but what’s important — why the Pilgrims came here, who Jimmy Doolittle was, and what those 30 seconds over Tokyo meant.”

‘A center for patriotism’
To that end, plans are moving forward with a new Jimmy Doolittle Center in Vacaville.

The project is targeted for property next to the Nut Tree Airport near the intersection of Interstates 505 and 80.

If all goes according to plan, the 21-acre site will be turned into an air museum, air park, restoration and education center, and multi-use facility. Also in the works would be a hotel and restaurant.

“It’s not just an air and space museum, but a center for patriotism,” Brian McInerney, chief executive officer of the Jimmy Doolittle Center, told The Enterprise. “All branches of the services (will be represented), but even outside the military: What does it mean to be an American?

“How is it we go here and enjoy the freedoms we enjoy today? At what cost?”

McInerney, a former Merchant Marine captain who studied political science at San Francisco State, says the project has a deep history that started more than 30 years ago at Travis Air Force Base.

Once part of an old Travis AFB commissary, the museum vision has been kept alive through the years, until in 2000 a 16-acre site near the base hospital was identified.

The Travis Air Museum was renamed in honor of Doolittle and the founding fathers had received support from the Air Force.

But disaster struck: 9/11 terrorist attacks limited the public’s access to military bases.

“Then they wanted to build a new home outside the wire at Travis,” McInerney explains.

What was next called the Jimmy Doolittle Center Education Foundation “was working on it for a number of years. They designed a new facility, vision, budgets and what costs might be. They had a (land lease) agreement with the Air Force outside the gates.”

It was agreed that the foundation would raise money and the Air Force would build the facility.

“That was progressing, the master plan was set, the organization raised the first $1.2 million,” McInerney says.

But the situation again changed three years ago. The Air Force was no longer in a position “to continue working in parallel … because so much has changed in the mission and funding of the military.”

‘A perfect fit’
Once McInerney jumped on board in 2013, the project board identified 11 acres of privately owned land just northeast of the Nut Tree commercial development. Adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport, the site was connected to another parcel of land formerly designated for city of Vacaville redevelopment.

That redevelopment tag was designed to lure a conference center with a hotel and further retail or restaurant.

McInerney says the Doolittle project is perfectly suited for the area and coincides with Vacaville’s original vision for the property.

“We saw we could develop not just an air and space museum, but a larger complex, more broad-based … that the region could support over a long period of time.”

The foundation acted quickly and secured the option to buy the 11 acres.

A first phase, says McInerney, in partnership with Solano Community College’s aeronautics program (already housed at the Nut Tree Airport) is a “perfect fit.”

Just last month, SCC President Jowel Laguerre was joined by McInerney and foundation board member Herm Rowland (Jelly Belly’s chairman of the board) in a meeting of the college district’s trustees.

“The museum has a lot of avenues for our students,” Laguerre told trustees, adding that some of a recent $348 million bond measure could be used to help secure space in the Doolittle Center.

“We have so many Air Force retirees with knowledge in those areas (who can help) with the college’s programs,” McInerney continues. “And the planes are already here. If we build next to each other, the restoration/education hangar can be one.

“The whole thing is very synergistic.”

And expensive.

The first phase with the SCC education wing, a couple of hangars for display and other minor elements could cost as much as $12 million to $15 million.

Currently, the foundation has one of only 17 existing B-25s, a Pacific Theater veteran named Tondaleyo.

Expected to be a centerpiece in a Doolittle Museum that will be chockablock with ghosts of history, Tondaleyo flew 14 missions under Capt. Dick Alice. Despite sustaining much damage from enemy fire, Tondaleyo survived — shooting down 14 Japanese aircraft and sinking an enemy ship.

Completely restored, the B-25 now hosts fundraising flights from Vacaville, over the Golden Gate Bridge, down the San Francisco Bay Peninsula and back home.

While the flights raise pocket change for the project, McInerney says he hopes big money comes in as the scope of the Doolittle Museum becomes more publicized.

The built-out project — with 100,000 square feet of hangar space, 50,000 square feet for artifacts and a theater and a 10,000-square-foot lobby — will tack on another $50 million, McInerney estimates.

Within the next 45 days, the foundation will have all the figures nailed down, he adds.

The group will appear next month before the Vacaville City Council to discuss a lease option on the city’s old redevelopment property with the hope that the foundation can draw a hotel to town, perhaps even work a profit-sharing agreement.

Meanwhile, McInerney agrees with Reagan …

The history of how Americans got here “doesn’t seem to be interwoven into today’s society much at all.”

“I know in my 10-year-old son’s (Marin County) schools — which are very good — everything is stem-related technology. Less than 10 percent history or social studies is taught anymore.”

‘Doing the right thing for the right reason’
After leaving the Merchant Marine, McInerney helped former San Francisco Police Chief Frank Jordan get elected as that city’s mayor. Next, he entered the private sector to match deserving nonprofits with contributors and other organizations that could move them forward.

When approached about taking over this museum project, “I saw the opportunity. I thought, ‘Wow.’ It made sense to me. If we could pull this whole thing off and create a center like this, we could actually connect an affiliation (for) a new type of education — or source of education.

“We can come up with educational programs for teachers, or put it online where they can easily integrate it into their classrooms.”

McInerney goes on …

“Basically it’s ‘What is what used to be known as the character of an American. Why is it that we would go halfway around the globe and die for somebody that we never met before or don’t even understand?’ … It’s because we hold certain principles dear and we think certain things are just right.

“Doing the right thing for the right reason at the right time — period.”

McInerney believes “who we are is getting lost.”

“Running around waving the flag is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t really impart who we are or embed in it what we do.”

Notes: Actor and Sacramento native Tom Hanks has put his stamp of approval on the project, contributing a YouTube promotional piece … At the foundation’s Nut Tree Airport hangar is a small sampling of what museumgoers can expect if the Doolittle project plays out. A pre-World War I bi-plane, built by 15-year-old twins Willy and Arthur Gonzalez in San Francisco’s Richmond District, is a veteran of Yolo County flights in 1915. A Navy Wildcat sits proudly in the northwest corner, a wing folded as if lounging, proudly reflecting on its many missions accomplished. McInerney says there are many other artifacts and vintage planes sitting at Travis, waiting to be rediscovered by the masses. The project CEO says he has commitments from private owners who will donate or lend their old aircraft to the museum when it opens. … A terrific family destination, the museum would host school field trips, and supply teachers with courses of study (in person and online) — while providing “programs for younger kids. Whether we start them on paper airplanes, or riveting, or propeller design… They can come down and fly a model airplane. There will be a park out there,” McInerney promises. “We’re going to preserve and honor history.” …Visit www.doolittlecenter.org or call 707-317-1138 to get involved.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-320-4456.

Comments

comments

Bruce Gallaudet

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Grant means new push for moving tracks out of town

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Some say council needs to reconsider MRAP

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    UC to create $250 million venture capital fund

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

     
    School district may redevelop downtown site

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

     
    Master Gardeners share their wisdom at free workshops

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Scots vote to stay in UK

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Man faces arson charge in huge California wildfire

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    DUI suspected in crash

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Woodland Healthcare offering flu shots

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Putah Creek Bike Path to close temporarily

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Little Free Libraries open at Montgomery

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Project Linus seeks donations

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Rabid bat found at Holmes Junior High

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Students invited to apply for Blue & White grants

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Telling tales, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Storyteller will draw on music, dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Free workout class set at library

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit: Lots of ways to be a volunteer

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Sierra Club remembers longtime walker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    DHS Classes of 1954 and 1955 will hold 60th reunion

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Nonprofits can get DCN’s help

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis maps available at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Reception benefits endangered gorillas

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Downtown history tour planned in October

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Davis hosts its own climate change rally

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Sutter Farmers Market offers local goods

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Wolk applauds approval of stronger rules for olive oil

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Qigong classes available for heart health

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Sick of being the bad guy

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Return to previous plan

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Save the ‘pine cone place’

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Affirm our community values

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Project has safety risks

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Learn more about Paso Fino

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Educate homeless with dogs

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Cheers and Jeers: Not the end of the rainbow

    By Our View | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Aggies’ new energy could be scary for Big West

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    No rest for the weary: Aggie TE Martindale busy on and off the field

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils hope the light bulb turns on at Edison

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    River Cats and Giants sign two-year deal

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Blue Devil volleyballers hold off Herd

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Take Zona and Bama this week

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Mustangs are no match for DHS boys in water polo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    A’s slide continues as Rangers sweep

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    Name Droppers: Awards keep coming for UC Davis retiree

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    Redesigned 2015 Escalade remains breed all its own

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Carol L. Walsh

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, September 19, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Taylor Morrison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Malek Baroody

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Norcal Land

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Robin Garland

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Dana Hawkins

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Martha Bernauer

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Lynne Wegner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Remax

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

    Coldwell Banker

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

    Kim Eichorn

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

    Jamie Madison & Associates

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Marcelo Campos

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Julie Partain

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

    Juan Ramirez

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Kim Merrel Lamb

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Bob Bockwinkel

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

    Chris Snow

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    James Hanna

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

    Raul Zamora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Susan von Geldern

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

    Travis Credit Union

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

    Lisa Haass

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

    First Street Real Estate

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24