Monday, March 17, 2014

Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum: a salute to the missing of Flight 19 and ...

Fort Lauderdale News, Dec. 6, 1945.
 Thirteen more airmen were lost in a search for
the missing squadron
Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum
4000 West Perimeter Rd., Fort Lauderdale, 33315
Open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 am to 3:30 pm
Staffed by volunteers - call first

For more Florida history visit my other blog, 

By Jane Feehan

There’s a slice of World War II military history sitting near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that draws visitors from around the world. They pay homage to those who trained here, including President George H. W. Bush, and to the 27 men of the Lost Squadron or mysterious Flight 19 and its rescue plane.

The Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum houses the Link Trainer Building #8, which was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1998. Navy vet Allan McElhiney, who served at the NASFL, founded the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Association in 1979. The group saved the landmark building, so called after the Link Trainer, a flight simulator widely used in WWII. 

Broward County Property Appraiser Lori Parrish took interest in the NAS and was instrumental in finding a Department of Transportation grant to move Building #8, the remaining building of the WWII campus, in 1999, to its present location off Perimeter Road. The move saved the structure from demolition, paving the way for creation of the museum.

The building was one of more than 200 constructed at the site in 1942 to serve as a training center, part of
Work order for building #8
the Navy Air Operational Training Command, specializing in TBM/TBF Avenger aircraft. U.S. Navy and marine personnel as well as some of the British Royal Navy graduated from the facility. Nearly 1,700 pilots and thousands of air crewmen passed through this NAS, one of 257 across the nation at that time.

Broward County turned over the old Merle Fogg Airport to the military shortly after Pearl Harbor (1941). The training facility went up in five short months for about $6 million. It was expected to be used for five years. The NAS was decommissioned in 1946 and turned back over to the county in 1947.
Nineteen year-old Ensign George H.W. Bush trained at the NAS in 1943. His instructor was Thomas “Tex” Ellison, uncle of Jim Naugle, Fort Lauderdale’s mayor 1991-2009. A recreation of Bush’s room is featured in the museum.

The museum also serves as memorial to the men who went missing on the mysterious Flight 19. On Dec. 5, 1945, at 2 p.m., five TBM Avengers carrying 14 crew set out on a routine training mission over the Atlantic near Bimini. Ninety minutes later, flight leader Lt. Charles C. Taylor made the first of several radio transmissions to the NAS reporting that he and the other four planes were lost. When nothing more was heard from the flight several hours later, a PBM Mariner flying boat with 13 onboard was sent to look for Flight 19. It too, was lost. A three-day search in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico failed to yield any clues to the disappearance of the 27 men, igniting the Bermuda Triangle controversy. The navy closed its investigation into Flight 19 citing loss of fuel in bad weather. Since then, the incident remains a tantalizing mystery.

Replicas of the missing planes are on exhibit as well as more than one hundred handmade wooden
Replicas of the Lost Squadron plus its missing
rescue plane
models of different aircraft. Also displayed are a Link Trainer, uniforms of the period, documents, books, photographs, personal memorabilia, and paintings by late artist Bob Jenny.

A Link Trainer (flight simulator)
In 1992, before the museum was established, President George H.W. Bush visited Building #15 (since destroyed) where he lived as an ensign and signed several Bob Jenny paintings, one a 27-foot mural now at the Link Trainer Building #8.

WWII vets and a few relatives of the lost crewmen of Flight 19 visit the NASFL Museum as well as donate diaries, artifacts and other memorabilia to be placed on display or archived. Visitors also include those who appreciate the role played by the NASFL during WWII and in Broward County’s history.  Many who trained at NASFL returned after the war to make Fort Lauderdale their home, contributing to the explosive growth of the city in the 1950s.

The NASFL played an important part not only in the city’s history but also in the readiness of the nation during WWII. The navy was hesitant in giving the training station up in 1947 and in fact, ordered it re-activated the same year. The order was soon rescinded. The navy said they had been reluctant to turn the NASFL back over to Broward County “because of the uncertainty of future military requirements together with the important position the Fort Lauderdale station occupies in the navy’s mobilization and readiness plans.”

Today, the NASFL Museum retains an “important position” in recognition of the area’s contribution to the war effort and serves as a salute to those who gave their lives in that conflict. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

See on this blog:  Mystery of Flight 19:
Miami News, April 20, 1943
Miami News, April 30, 1947
Miami News, Dec. 8, 1948
Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Dec. 19, 1985
Bloom, Minerva. Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale: a Catalyst for Growth. Morrisville (2013).

Tags: Fort Lauderdale in the 1940s, Fort Lauderdale during WWII, Flight 19, Link Trainer, Fort Lauderdale historian, Miami historian

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