Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
County:Chatham
City:Pooler
Type:Museum
B-47 on the grounds of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
B-47
Travelers on I-95 north of I-16 might think that the United States Air Force is guarding the heavily traveled interstate against some sort of attack at the Pooler, Georgia exit. A few miles west of Savannah, a swept-wing B-47 Stratojet (this is actually a training model) located near the exit is a "welcome sign" to both World War II history buffs and aiplane afficiandos that come to visit one of the best museums in Georgia or the Southeastern United States, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum. Roadside Georgia considers the museum to be one of the "must see" attractions of Georgia.

History of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

Entrance to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
Organized in Savannah, Georgia on January 28, 1942 in response to Pearl Harbor and the growing Nazi threat, the Mighty Eighth grew to become the premier fighting air group in the world. Raids on Regensburg, the destruction of the ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt, and the bombing of the massive Ploesti oil refinery are all memoriable missions of the Eighth Air Force before D-Day. Before, during and after the Normandy invasion the Eighth Air Force played a pivotal role in virtually every air operation that occurred. For a complete timeline of operations, see Our Georgia History's Eighth Air Force timeline

Visiting the Museum

Using state-of-the-art graphics, memorabilia, vintage motion pictures and photographs and interactive "live-it-yourself" features, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is a work of art by itself.

Divided into galleries, which effectively group the information presentation by either time or location, the museum begins with a concise retracing of the events leading to World War II in the Prelude to War, then paints a bleak picture of Britain, seemingly alone, against the powerful German forces. Dramatic archival footage, some of which is rarely seen, recreates the life and death struggle that took place over the skies of Great Britain from 1940 until 1942.

Ploesti Raid
The Darkest Hour begins with "Kristallnacht" (Crystal Night) and explores the Nazi exploitation of European minorities (including those of the Jewish faith). Then the gallery tells the story of Pearl Harbor and prepares you to enter the shoes of a young man who is about to embark on a B-17 mission over occupied Europe from a secret air base on the British Islands.

The entrance to Mission Experience is a Quonset hut briefing room, where an officer addresses the "squad" of museum visitors and shows a brief video. Nearby, an armed MP stands guard. Leaving the "ready room," more video helps envision preparing for the bombing run on which we are about to embark. Visitors "fly a mission" over the English Channel and into Nazi-occupied France. Vividly recreated, with "ack-ack" fire loudly bursting and shaking the plane, this dramatic recreation of a Mighty Eighth bombing run is a highlight of the museum. As the lights come up former members of the Mighty Eighth offer to answer visitor questions.

Largest of the museum's exhibits is the Combat Gallery, where planes used by the Mighty Eighth and their opponents are on display. These planes, which are either restored or replicas, are augmented by additional planes on the grounds, including the one by the exit on I-95. Among the famous people associated with the Eighth are the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American pilots who were fighting two battles, actor Jimmy Stewart who flew 25 Mighty Eighth missions, and future test pilot Chuck Yeager, who became an "ace" during World War II.

Memorial Chapel at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
Two galleries, Escape and Evasion and Prisoner of War examines a often overlook facet of air power - downed pilots and crew. With losses averaging 12% and individual missions reaching up to 40% loss, downed crews were a major concern of Allied commanders. An intricate network of ground assistance, mostly thanks to French freedom fighters (in the case of the Mighty Eighth) saved thousands of American lives. Those captured by the Nazis faced confinement in a "luftstalag" (literally, "air prison"). The museum captures a downed crew's life as prisoners-of-war with a nearly life-size model of a small portion of the prison.

Upcoming exhibits

The museum is developing an area of post World War II exhibits to augment the current exhibits. This will take a look at the Mighty Eighth's involvement in the Strategic Air Command, Vietnam, Afganistan and desert operations.

Grounds and Memorial Chapel

On the grounds of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum are addtional aircraft with interpretive signs. A stone chapel handles services for weddings and funerals, particularly for (although not limited to) members of the Mighty Eighth.

A word of thanks

Roadside Georgia Managing Editor Phyllis Reardon and publisher Randy Golden would like to thank everyone at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Musuem that made our trip to the facility such a pleasure.



Location: Two exits north of I-16 on I-95, west of Savannah
Directions: From the intersection of I-16 and I-95, take I-95 North to U. S. 80, the Pooler/Garden City exit. Turn right on U. S. 80 and make the first left onto Bourne Ave. The museum is on the left.
Additional information:
Address:
The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
175 Bourne Ave.
Pooler, GA 31322
Phone: 912.748.8888
Fax: 912.748.0209


Date added: March 26, 2004
Last update: September 9, 2005


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