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Air Force museum is a mighty good time
Notes from an almost military spouse
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"What exactly is that place?" Every time I've driven past the sign on I-95 for the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, I've asked myself the same question. After dropping off some friends at the airport recently, I decided to visit the museum instead of heading straight home. And I was very glad I did.
Now, I'm not usually much of a history enthusiast, and certainly not military history, but the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum won me over in a big way. It's dedicated to the men and women of the Eighth Air Force, activated in 1942 in our own backyard at the National Guard Armory in Savannah. The Eighth went on to become one of the greatest air units of World War II, paving the way for the D-Day victory. Seventeen of its flyers won the Medal of Honor.
This museum is different from most because, although it includes dates and facts about the war, its focus is on people. Museum volunteer Sonny Koski has been spending every Tuesday here for two years, and it's the stories that keep him coming back.
"It's really a unique place," he said. "Everything here tells the story of the Eighth Air Force men and women. It's really about them, not just the war."
Koski showed me around some of the most interesting exhibits. He pointed out the recreated Belgian safehouse, and told me the electric lamps are authentic and fully functioning. A safehouse was a household that provided assistance to refugees and resistance fighters. Photographs of resistance fighters and helpers hang on the wall, with captions detailing each one's story.
Next to the safehouse is a tribute to POWs, complete with a model of a German POW barracks. I was fascinated by artifacts such as wooden dog tags issued to prisoners. Like the rest of the museum, the exhibit lends a human quality to the war.
Another section, "Honoring the Eighth," recognizes each individual fighter and bomber group that made up the Eighth Air Force. Individual display cases feature insignia, patches, decals, and other memorabilia that show each group's personality and contribution to the war effort, and to the Eighth's overall success.
Particularly interesting to me was the "Fly Girls" section, dedicated to the little known stories of the Second World War's female pilots. Their stories are told through photographs, video segments, recorded testaments, and newspaper clippings, just to name a few items. I learned that, until Congress awarded the WASPS, or female pilots, veteran status in 1977, the contributions of these brave women had never been officially recognized.
If you're looking for even more detailed history, the second story of the museum houses a research library with more than 7,000 volumes relating to the history of the Eighth Air Force.
The outside gardens are a must-see. A reflecting pool between the Memorial Gardens and the Chapel of the Fallen Eagles serves as the centerpiece. The chapel is in active use, and was designed to replicate a sixteenth century English village church.  The gardens provide a picturesque spot for reflection.
The museum is a great place for kids' birthday parties. Staff provides cake, favors, and cleanup and even gives the guest of honor a flight suit to wear during the tour.
I had only a short time to spend at the museum, but you could easily pass an afternoon here. There really is something for everyone. To learn more, call 912-748-8888, visit, or stop by 175 Bourne Avenue.
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