Location: Pooler, Georgia
General Description: The Mighty Eighth Air Force Command was activated on January 28, 1942, at Hunter Field in Savannah, Georgia. In the next month, the command was moved to England to provide bomber and fighter support as the United States entered World War II against Nazi Germany. By mid-1944 it reached its peak of over 200,000 people conducting bombing missions into Germany from many bases in England and could send 2000 four-engine bombers and 1000 fighters on a single mission. The Mighty Eighth compiled an impressive record during the war but also suffered heavy casualties with over half of the Air Forces casualties during World War II. The personnel earned 17 Medal of Honors and 200 Distinguished Service Crosses, the most decorated in the war. This museum provides the history and commemorates their service during the war through a number of exhibits. Beginning with a series of exhibits providing a timeline of the “Prelude to War” through the Battle of Britain before the US entered the war, visitors learn of the circumstances that led to the formation of the Mighty Eighth. The first major task was to move the Eighth Air Force to England which meant all the planes had to be flown over using Greenland and Iceland as waypoints. Visitors can then experience a Mission through a series of movies starting with the Mission Briefing, Flight Line Operations, and the Mission. Upon exiting the mission, visitors can explore a number of well designed exhibits about different aspects of the war. Included are the Combat Gallery with aircraft, engines and scale models; Escape and Evasion with a replica of a safe house, Prisoner of War with a POW exhibit, and the celebrations at the end of the was when The Lights Come On Again. Visitors can view an extensive collection of artifacts from various 8th Air Force group displays and outside are the Airmen Memorial and a reproduction of an small English Chapel. Finally, visitors learn about the modern 8th Air Force, stories about the Medal of Honor recipients, the contributions of the Tuskegee Airmen, and the story of women flyers in the WASP units.
1) Plan on spending all day at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum as there is a lot to see. The outside of the museum is not that impressive, but they have put a lot of thought and effort, which is continuing today, into the inside. The museum is well designed beginning with the history leading up to World War II and the Battle of Britain when the RAF was able to wear down the German Luftwaffe and forestall a land invasion through the Day of Infamy and the entrance of the US in the war.
2) The Mission Experience takes about 30 minutes, but it is well worth the time. The three movies are excellently done to give a sense of what it was like for the pilots and ground crews to prepare and execute a bombing mission. The final movie of the mission itself is very well done, with multiple screens around the wall, floor, and ceiling with lights and sounds.
3) The Combat Gallery has a lot of things of interest including a scale model of a British airfield with explanations of the activities you see all around the exhibit. There is also a B-17 that they are currently restoring as you watch. There are also descriptions, models, short movies, and artifacts about some of the missions and accomplishments of the Mighty Eighth.
4) I was very impressed with the replica of a Safe House that illustrates the aid provided to downed airmen and their escape from Nazi-occupied countries. Scattered all over the replica are the stories of airmen and in some cases pictures of them with those that assisted them. Some of the stories are incredible and must be read to be believed!
5) They have an extensive collection of artifacts donated to them from veterans organized by the battle group. It was a custom to carry a dollar bill with signatures of buddies or love ones and there were a number of these on exhibit. The most surprising one was a signature by Clark Gable on one of the bills.
6) The Memorial Garden must be seen to be believed. I would not even want to count the number of plaques, statues, benches, and other memorials they have stuffed into this relatively small area. Every where you look is multiple lists of personnel that served together in one group or another.
7) The replica of the British chapel is beautiful. The stained glass windows in the chapel depicting scenes of aircraft and those that flew them are wonderfully done.
8) The admission is only $10 per person and it is well worth the money, however, plan on spending all day to see just a fraction of the museum. We wisely broke up our visit with a lunch break which was necessary to process all the information we were discovering.