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August 2, 2012

Town marks 100 years of Marine Corps aviation

MARBLEHEAD — It might sound like an invasion tomorrow as four military helicopters are scheduled to swoop into Marblehead and come to Earth at Village School.

But all it means is that the U.S. Marines have landed and the situation is well in hand.

The arrival of four choppers is part of the celebration of 100 years of Marine Corps aviation, a story that began right here on Marblehead Harbor in the shadow of the Starling Burgess aircraft factory.

Lt. Alfred Cunningham came to Marblehead when he was unable to find a plane to fly in Annapolis, Md., explains organizer Don Humphries, who is a Marine veteran of World War II. In Marblehead, Cunningham was given flying lessons before taking off in a Burgess seaplane on Aug. 20, 1912, and becoming the first Marine in the air.

“One hundred years of Marine aviation,” Humphries says, “that’s kind of a big thing.”

Four U.S. Marine helicopters will land at Village School at noon and remain there for public viewing. These will include the “heavy lift” H-53 and a restored H-34, the helicopter famed from the Vietnam War.

“They’re going to be open for inspection,” Humphries says.

On Saturday, parades are planned, one starting at 8:30 a.m. and moving from Seaside Park to Hammond Park to the Old Town House. At 10:30 a.m., a parade will proceed from the Town House up Pleasant Street to Memorial Park and a reviewing stand before moving on to Village School.

The school will continue to display the four helicopters, as well as Humvees and other exhibits inside the cafeteria from noon to 6 p.m. A second flyover, this time of fixed-wing aircraft, is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. Included is the Corsair fighter, a staple of the war in the Pacific against Japan. The Corsair’s wings could be folded, allowing more of them to fit aboard aircraft carriers.

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