Vietnam helicopter highlights new 1968 museum exhibit

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. 1968 was the most tumultuous year in the past half-century of American history.

“The 1968 Exhibit” captures it all in a new display opening soon at the Bob Bullock State History Museum, and the Vietnam War is at the center of it all.

Various exhibits and memorabilia showcase the riots and protests, the assassinations, the movements for love power, people power, black power, drugs, the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll and the explosions of war.

“There will be some people who weren’t born in 1968. Others will come here who lived it, and remember it,” said Kate Betz, education director at the museum.

The centerpiece is a reassembled Huey helicopter, the mainstay workforce in the war. It carried soldiers into battle, returned the wounded, hauled supplies and picked up body bags.

Among the vets watching the assembly Thursday was Ed Jones. Now retired in Round Rock, Jones was a pilot for the 1st Cavalry on 200 missions.

“Your pulse increases, your heart rate goes up,” he said about his flying days. “You think of all the memories of flying in a Huey, sometimes they’re not fond memories, sometimes they are tragic.”

He was shot down five times, including his first day. But they kept going back into battle, it was their duty.

“Sometimes you don’t know when to quit,” he said, “sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Austin is the sixth city on this tour which runs from June 7 through Sept. 1. It is the brainchild of Minnesota historian Jay Ericson.

“What I love seeing in the museum is grandpa putting his hands on the Huey, and you see the grandkids there and he starts to tell the story,” Ericson said.

5,000 Huey’s were built during the war era, all made in Texas. This exhibit is a chance to relive and remember it all, and maybe come out of the shadows.

“I didn’t tell anyone I was a Vietnam pilot for 40 years,” Jones admitted. “Then with some psychological counseling, I changed. Now I can’t stop talking.”

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