Flying to Texas

April 16, 2009 ..............Times New

Flying to Texas

Locally made model plane to be displayed at Vietnam War Museum


SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Bill Gaddes and a quarter-scale flying model of a Vietnam-era military airplane.

A quarter-scale flying model of a Vietnam-era military airplane, crafted by the late William "Wash" Martin of Tamaqua, is on its way from Tamaqua to the National Vietnam War Museum in Mineral Wells, Texas.

Martin, who died at age 75 on Dec. 10, built the model of a United States Marine Corps OV-10A BRONCO, in 2007 in honor of Coaldale native Col. Bob Stoffey, USMC (ret.), who flew a BRONCO in the war.

Stoffey's name is on the plane, as it was on the one he flew as a squadron leader in Southeast Asia in the 1960s.

The model will be displayed next to a real OV-10 that saw service in Vietnam, said James Messinger, exhibit coordinator and treasurer of the board of directors of the museum.

"We are in the process of restoring a real OV-10 which will be on a stand near our replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall," he said.

Stoffey, who has been awarded the Marine Corps medal for Personal Heroism, now lives in Carlsbad, California with his wife Eleanor. He saw the model when he came back east several years ago for a Coaldale High School Class of 1953 reunion.

The model, complete with scaled-down pilots, sat in the Viennese Villa restaurant in Coaldale.

"Wash had called me some years back and asked me if I had some pictures (of the plane)," Stoffey said.

William Gaddes, who grew up near Martin in Coaldale, had made arrangements with Martin to have the model placed in the restaurant for him to discover.

"There, as a surprise, was this BRONCO, replicated, with my name on it," Stoffey said.

Stoffey flew 440 combat missions during three tours in Vietnam, flying the OV-10 as well as the UH-1G attack helicopter. He is the author of two best-selling books about the Vietnam War, "Cleared Hot" and "Fighting to Leave." Both books detail combat use of the OV-10A BRONCO aircraft in Vietnam.

Martin, who enlisted in the Army at age 16 during the Korean War and served in Germany during the height of the Cold War, was exacting. An avid pilot, he knew planes inside and out.

The OV-10 model was built to Martin's high standards. It flew in many "War Bird" competitions, winning awards.

"Wash was an expert in the restoration of antique aircraft," Gaddes said. "Wash was a marvelous guy. He was probably one of the best radio control aviators in the Northeastern United States."

Martin had built several quarter-scale aircraft, he said.

He was also an accomplished steel-guitarist and played in several bands.

After Martin's sudden death, his brother Jack kept the OV-10 model.

Stoffey said Jack Martin and Gaddes coordinated the donation.

"I said good, I'll pay for it and you do it," Stoffey recalled.

The model is on its way via UPS to Texas and is expected to arrive at its destination by Saturday.

"It's a very good replica of the plane," Stoffey said. The model's fuselage is about 10 feet long and the wingspan is about 11 feet.

It will be an asset to the museum, Messinger said.

"We welcome all donations related to the Vietnam Era," he said. "This one is very interesting as we have real OV-10s, we sell books about OV-10s and of course it was a recognizable part of the Vietnam War. We will be thinking of special ways to tie all of those things together to make an exhibit. It's possible that we can fly this model at some event in the future."

The museum is still in its early stages.

"We have begun construction with some small displays," Messinger said. "Our first was a memorial garden, The Meditation Garden (about a half acre). We are currently working at building a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall (about half scale) and will unveil that May 30. We have also had the 52nd Aviation Battalion build us a replica of the memorial wall they built in Vietnam at Pleiku and it is in our second memorial garden, The Contemplation Garden. That garden includes a Huey helicopter on a 20-foot pole."

After the May 30 unveiling, the group plans to plant a "forest of Arizona Cypress trees around our Vietnam Wall. We also have just acquired a temporary (2,500-square-foot) visitors center that will be attached to utilities this summer. Our next project is supposed to be our 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot maintenance building, where we can restore our larger artifacts and prepare exhibits," he said.

"We do not have a time line on the main building as it is a $5 million facility and we are working hard to find donors at that level," Messinger said. He estimates the complete cost at about $25 million. Founders have raised about $1 million so far.

The work, Messinger said, has all been accomplished by volunteers, mostly Vietnam veterans.

Donations may be sent to The National Vietnam War Museum, P.O. Box 146, Mineral Wells, TX 76068 or through the Web site: