B-2s, B-52s, and the plane that ended World War II

Visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, can come face to face with the best collection of military aircraft in the world. CNET Road Trip 2013 checked it out.

This is the B-29 Superfortress, known as 'Bockscar,' that dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945, effectively ending World War II. The plane, and hundreds of others, can be found at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

DAYTON, Ohio -- It's hard to stand in front of the B-29 Superfortress and not be awed by its history.

Deep inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base here, visitors can come face to face with Bockscar, the plane that dropped Fat Man, the atomic bomb that leveled Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, effectively ending World War II.

The museum has what is likely the most impressive collection of military aircraft in the world. Spread across three gigantic hangars, plus a section filled with missiles, and both a collection of Presidential aircraft and a restoration shop -- where the famous Memphis Belle is being brought back to its wartime shape -- this is a true treasure trove of military aviation history.

As part of Road Trip 2013, I visited the museum and got a first-hand look at some of the most important aircraft in the long -- and bloody -- history of our country's warfare. But the museum is meant to educate, and is presented chronologically, with sections on World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, and others.

Visitors can easily spend more than a full day there, but it's also accessible, allowing anyone who comes to get a substantial sense of the planes and aviators who helped shape our military history.

If you find yourself in Dayton -- and more than 60 percent of the country's population is within a day's drive of the museum -- a visit to the museum is well worth it. Just be prepared to stop and think about the impact some of the aircraft -- like Bockscar -- had on the human race.


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