HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — In an effort to highlight the stories of Utah service members, the first of many new local heroes exhibits was unveiled at the Hill Aerospace Museum last month.
Aaron Clark, director for the Hill Aerospace Museum, said the purpose of the exhibit is preserve the rich heritage of Utah’s Airmen heroes and the contributions they made in the nation’s defense.
Brig. Gen. Leon C. Packer was first inductee into the exhibit series that was unveiled during a ceremony Oct. 26 and attended by Packer’s family and guests. The general served as a bomber pilot in World War II.
From August 1941 to November 1944 he flew a B-24 with the 8th Air Force in Europe and rose to the rank of colonel. After the war, he served on the Air Staff at the Pentagon until July 1947. Packer continued his Air Force service in Utah and was eventually promoted to brigadier general in May 1967.
He died at age 68 Nov. 25, 1985, in Brigham City.
“General Packer’s story as an Airmen clearly demonstrates why we created this new exhibit,” Clark said. “From destroying a German U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico, to participating in D-day, to supplying troops in support of Paris’ liberation, to assisting in the implementation of an independent Air Force, to serving locally as the assistant to the depot commander on the Hill Air Force Base, the general is a hero and has story Utahans and the world should know.”
Robb Alexander, executive director for Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah, said the proposal to feature Packer in the museum came about when the foundation was contacted by Packer’s son, Bob Packer, who inquired about the possibility of displaying some of his father’s World War II memorabilia in the museum.
The museum staff arranged a visit with the Packer family soon after and eventually agreed on how the museum could best display the general’s WWII memorabilia.
Now, flanked by his WWII bomber flight suit and mess dress, the vacuum sealed exhibit, also donated by the Packer family, showcases various military decorations and medals worn by the general. There are also several photographs and a timeline of his military service.
“We are really excited to have this display as part of our local heroes exhibit series, which will become a permanent fixture at the museum and continue to highlight Airmen, as well as tell the story of the Air Force and military in the state of Utah,” Alexander said. “It is the donations from generous people and the community that really make the extra stuff happen here, whether it comes from other foundations, corporations, or individual people that give to the foundation.”
While the display honors the general and his family, it will also be appreciated by the more than 320,000 guests who visit the museum each year.
“It’s just a great thing to have the history of a significant war hero displayed at the Hill Aerospace museum,” Alexander continued.
The museum has created a process for people to submit nominations of other Utah Airmen heroes for consideration to be featured at the museum. It will be made available by the end of the year on the museum’s website, www.aerospaceutah.org.
The Hill Aerospace Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about the museum and its programs, call 801-825-5817.