To my dismay, after wasting 20 minutes to get a pass to get into the base (the guy who issued passes was exceptionally cool and efficient, but it was still a PITA, and the rent-a-cop on the gate was a complete prick), I found that I had only 30 minutes to check out the museum before it closed. Doh.
When I walked in, a friendly docent asked me if I wanted to look around on my own, or if I wanted him to show me around. Luckily, I asked him to show me around.
It turns out that this guy was a mechanical engineer who'd worked there for years and years, and had all sorts of great stories. He had patents on stuff like the ASROC (torpedoes that were launched as surface to surface missiles so that they could engage submarines far from the vessel) and obviously knew his stuff.
He showed me a cool shaped-charge unguided rocket warhead that they had developed during the Korean War to deal with a new enemy tank with much thicker armor. They'd gone from request to manufactured part to a tank kill in something like 30 days. Yow. Those were the days!
We also spent a fair amount of time checking out the Sidewinder air to air missile, which was developed at the base. I hadn't realized quite how cool this was, or quite how many years it had been around. The little thing has gyroscopes on the ends of the movable control surfaces at the rear. They are spun up by air pressure as the missile accelerates, and provide a really simple and cool control system to keep the missile stable. What a cool hack!
The place is chock full of cool looking munitions, from the early unguided rockets and tube-based anti-radiation missiles like the WWII-era Bat to the Tomahawk and who knows what else. In 30 minutes, I didn't have much time to really check it all out -- to really do the museum right, you'd need several hours. I look forward to future trips up 395, when I wander through at my leisure.