Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum
Located in Pooler, just minutes from downtown Savannah on Interstate 95, the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is a nationally significant military history museum that documents the role of the Eighth Air Force in the defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II (1941-45).
History of the Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force
Early in the war the United States and Britain divided up strategic bombing responsibilities. The USAAF flew daytime missions, and Britain's Royal Air Force conducted carpet bombing under cover of darkness. In the early years the Eighth's bombers sustained heavy losses to the German Luftwaffe because escort fighters did not have the fuel capacity to accompany the bombers all the way to the target. With the advent of the long-range P-51 in 1944 and the development of external fuel tanks for P-47 and P-38 fighter escorts, fighters were able to escort the Eighth's bombers the full distance. Although there were still bomber (and fighter) casualties, the rate gradually declined.
The conditions under which the air war was fought were extreme. Missions were exhausting, lasting for hours at a time.
The Eighth Air Force separated from the USAAF in 1947 and became part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), organized under the newly independent U.S. Air Force. In 1992 the Eighth became part of the Air Combat Command, SAC's replacement. Today the Eighth remains an important strike element in the modern U.S. Air Force, having actively participated in Desert Storm, the U.S. campaign against Iraq in 1991; in Operation Allied Force, the bombing against Serbian forces in Kosovo by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999; and in Enduring Freedom, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. In its history the Eighth has operated bombers, fighters, tankers, and missiles.
Museum Exhibits and Grounds
The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum,
A "combat gallery" contains one-to-one scale replicas of the P-51 and the Messerschmitt Bf-109, an ME-163 rocket plane on loan from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and a PT-17 Steerman. Also on the grounds of the museum are aircraft from the cold war era, including an impressively restored (and rare) B-47, an F-4 Phantom, and a MiG-17A. In January 2009 the National Air and Space Museum gave a B-17 bomber to the museum.
The museum maintains a library and archive, four theaters, an artifact collection, a gift store, and a veteran database that seeks to preserve the service history of Eighth Air Force personnel. The museum also maintains an active program in education for middle grades and higher and offers lecture programs for the public. From time to time, aviation art exhibits are on display in the museum, some of them part of the nationally renowned U.S. Air Force art collection.
The museum welcomes reunions and commemorative events. In recent years it has become an important gathering place for veterans. In addition to the museum building, the grounds include a chapel, the Wall of Valor,
The Eighth Air Force played an important role in World War II. The sacrifice and heroism of its personnel stand as an important part of the story of the U.S. war effort in Europe. The museum is a testimonial to that heroism and an important collection that documents the service history and stories of Americans who made up "the last great generation."
Christopher J. Anderson, The Men of the Mighty Eighth: The U.S. 8th Air Force, 1942-1945 (London: Greenhill Books, 2001).
Gerald Astor, The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as Told by the Men Who Fought It (New York: D. I. Fine, 1997).
Thomas Childers, Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down over Germany in World War II (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1995).
Roger A. Freeman, Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now (London: Battle of Britain Prints International, 1978).
Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record (London: Cassell, 2001).
Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eighth: A History of the Units, Men, and Machines of the U.S. 8th Air Force (London: Cassell, 2000).
Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eighth in Art (London: Arms and Armour, 1996).
Roger A. Freeman, The Mighty Eighth War Manual (New York: Jane's, 1984).
J. Kemp McLaughlin, The Mighty Eighth in WWII: A Memoir (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000).
Brian D. O'Neill, Half a Wing, Three Engines, and a Prayer: B-17s over Germany, special rev. ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999).
Jamil S. Zainaldin, Georgia Humanities Council
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.