A visit to the National Museum of The Mighty 8th Air Force
My early November vacation turned out to be quite productive as far as museum visits. After visiting Pensacola, we headed north, stopping at the 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia, just south of Savannah. The 8th was formed in Savannah – the building downtown where the original orders were cut is a national historic site.
There aren’t many airplanes here, but that is made up for in the spectacular amount of artifacts. Every bomber, fighter and reconnaissance group has its own display, most of which were set up by the men of the individual units and their families. It brings a very personal touch to the exhibits. The flight jacket with the Mae West, for example, belonged to George Preddy. There is also a barracks area from a Luftwaffe Stalag (POW camp), a pair of huge dioramas in 1/72 scale depicting a USAAF B-17 base and the first Ploesti raid, and a room filled with the flags of all the 8th Air Force groups.
The B-17 wing comes with the best story in the museum. Charles Haskett’s plane was shot down and crashed near a small town in Belgium. Most of the surviving crew was captured, but Haskett evaded escape and returned to England with the aid of a young lady who lived near where he came down. The townspeople salvaged the wing, placing on display in the main square as a memorial to the men who helped liberate their country. Many years later, Haskett returned to the the town for a reunion with the family who helped him escape, getting a big surprise when he saw the wing, assuming for all those years that the aircraft had been destroyed. He arranged to have the wing returned to the US in honor of his crew, and the woman who helped him escape kissed and autographed the wing.
It’s a great place to visit.
42 additional images. Click to enlarge.