June 6, 2014

Out-of-the-blue mission accomplished

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum is Keith Herkalo’s 3 a.m. idea realized.

After a slew of “Where’s the Base Museum?,” he decided to give visitors what they wanted.

There had been a museum, but it closed when the Plattsburgh Air Force Base shut down in 1995. 

“Most of the assets went to the Air Force,” said Herkalo, who is the president of the Battle of Plattsburgh Association. “Some of it stayed here in Clinton County, and some of it, frankly, just disappeared.”



In a remarkably productive year, former Air Force military and civilian personnel, community members and college students have assembled a vibrant museum, a tribute to the Air Force’s 40-year mission here and the legacy of its personnel and the community.

Dave Deno manages both the War of 1812 Museum and the Plattsburgh Air Force Base Museum.

“I’ve always been fascinated with this area, particularly the base,” he said. “I was a civilian. I lived in Plattsburgh, and I was never allowed on here. I never knew anybody who lived here. 

"It’s a secret city almost, and nobody knows about it. At least, I didn’t. I was really glad (the museum) came true."

SUNY Plattsburgh museum-studies interns Tyler Beck and Justin Villanyi conducted research. Denise Treacy, who attends a Maine college, assisted in exhibit design and installation.



Five hours and three minutes after Herkalo’s blue epiphany, he had speed-dialed retired Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Baehre, who articulated in exquisite detail to him why his idea was a no-go.

But then the association's museum charter offered the answer.

“Once we had that structure in place, we could go out and start raising funds,” said Baehre, who signed on as the PAFB Museum curator.

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