Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Mighty 8th Museum

Picking up where we left off, my parents and grandfather had arrived at the hotel and were kind enough to wait as we got dressed and checked out after our pool adventure for the morning. While the car was being loaded, Luke pulled out his Disney 2009 photo album and began explaining the trip to his Great-Grandpa. Don't know how much Pa-Paw could understand him, but they both seemed to enjoy story time.

After that, it was straight to the Mighty 8th Museum. Somehow, I managed to not get a photo of the front or the atrium. The first section of the museum was titled Prelude to WWII. I guess I should have realized what was coming, but it was still rather a shock to enter the very first doorway, round the corner, and see this:

There were also life size photo enlargements of Hitler with some children just to my left from the perspective of the above photo. It made my skin crawl. My first instinct was to snatch up Luke and back out of the room! I had to take a couple of deep breaths to walk through the long narrow room.

Ironically, my grandfather seemed less bothered by it, perhaps because he was more accustomed to seeing such things. It really was interesting, what I got to see of it. Like the Sea Turtle Center, we took turns chasing tracking accompanying Luke, so I missed the front of this hall, but got to see a good bit of the exhibits in the back, like this one.

The sign below this reads: Corporal Arthur Parker cut this insignia from the tail section of a Messerschmitt Me109 E-1 (4076) downed on the morning of August 31, 1940. The aircraft crashed in Elham Park Wood at 9:30 AM after being shot down by First Lieutenant Denys Gilliams 616 Squadron Spitfire.

Of course, Luke liked the "interactive" parts best. At least this museum didn't have the touch computer screens. I understand why the museums like those, but all Luke wants to do is play on the computers, not look at the stuff. It drives me crazy! Not that I think he got much more out of this display. Maybe he just isn't really ready for museums yet. He thought this mural was pretty amazing. So did my grandfather.

I just love this photo. He was absolutely amazed by this mural. My grandfather was not part of the Mighty 8th. He was in the Army and worked at the airfields in India. "This is exactly what it looked like. Whoever painted it must have been there." Here are some detail photos of the mural:

And a group shot of all of us in front of it. Before you ask, my grandfather is 6'3", or 1.9 meters tall. We're *all* hoping Luke takes after him!

Next to this mural, there was a building of some sort. This was something else I missed somehow while we were there. (So much harder to get everything out of museums with a child in tow.) We did not get to sit through any of the presentation inside, but it was still neat to see.

In the next room was this bomb. I don't know if it was real (disabled) or a replica. I know it is odd to see a child smiling in front of a bomb. That was not really my intent, but I can't really explain to a 4-year-old not to smile in a picture. I really wanted him in the shot for scale. It was just massive.

And the room in the back was a really neat display. Sometimes the screens were a panoramic, sometimes they were different points of view on the same event. There were some additional effects, like strobe lights and such. I only got to see a few minutes of it, but it was quite impressive, and I truly wish I could have seen the entire presentation. Here is a shot from in side the room.

However, the star of the show at the museum is the "plane room." They have scale models:

And their very own B-17 Bomber that is being restored.

It is not behind glass, just sawhorses. You could see the whole plane, and you could (though you should not) reach out and touch parts of it.

Here is Luke standing under the wing; it was *so* hard for him not to touch it!

They also had the nose section of a B-24.

There was a small "house" that showcased period furniture and other historic items, like these:

Per the sign: These items were made by a Belgian Prisoner and her cellmates. The Belgian had owned a shop specializing in hand embroidery and needlework, and taught her cellmates her craft.

My favorite section, simply because it was something I knew nothing about, was the Fly Girls section.

They primarily delivered the planes. They did not fly combat missions. That did not, however, mean that it was not dangerous.

There were some other historically interesting facts about women aviators.

The caption reads: Bessie Coleman was the first African American - male or female - to earn a pilot's license. She was a popular barnstormer during the 1920s, performing in both France and the United States. Coleman was killed during a practice flight in 1926.

This caption said: Four women representing various branches of the armed forces. Before and during World War II, servicewomen faced discrimination from men, as well as other women.

This was captioned: Fifinella, a female gremlin, was the official mascot of the WASP. Walt Disney Studios designed the logo, which was featured on patches, nose art, and WASP newsletters.

I think the thing I love so much about this uniform is that it is for a woman about my height! For some reason, that made me feel better. Doesn't it look so adventurous?

This made me laugh. Caption: Regulations required WASP to keep their hair neat at all times. A cartoon from The Avenger, the WASP newspaper, offers light-hearted suggestions for airplane-themed hairstyles.

Amazing that there were this many of them, and this is the first I had ever heard of it. Way to go ladies! Thank you for paving the way for the rest of us to be considered equals.

I didn't get to spend as much time in this section as I had hoped. It was right at the very end, and I could hear the whining of my child from almost the beginning of the exhibit. His schedule was totally out of whack, he was tired and hungry, and of course, the museum dumps you out in the museum store, so he was begging for toys. We settled on two die cast metal replicas of the B-24 and the B-17. Both have been his constant companions ever since. Maybe the museum did have an impact after all.

Currently feeling: offering my thanks to all who have served this country


  1. Wow! I've never even HEARD of this museum. We'll have to check it out sometime. And for this:

    "I understand why the museums like those, but all Luke wants to do is play on the computers, not look at the stuff. "

    Um, I plead guilty to reading the signs and forgetting to look at the stuff, on a semi-frequent basis, so I sympathize!

  2. We went to this museum in June 2008. I think it was P's favorite thing we did on our Savannah trip! He got a hat in the gift shop that he has just about worn out.

  3. I'm glad you were able to visit this museum with your grandfather and Luke. My grandfather was a Navy airplane mechanic in WWII and I'm glad I got to hear many of his stories before he died.

    My great uncle was also an airman in India and said that at the end of the war they lined up the planes wingtip to wingtip on a 1 mile runway and the airmen destroyed them with axes. It was too expensive to send them home, and too many airmen with nothing to do...a perfect solution.

  4. That is so awesome!! What a great view of the museum you provided. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the WASPs!

    BTW, I know just how you felt in that first room. We inherited a few things from Michael's grandparents. One of them was a pewter mug that they bought in occupied Germany...of course, it has a swastika stamped on the bottom. I just couldn't bear to keep it in the house, so we gave it back to his parents.

  5. Brilliant entry, Erin....and very interesting for me, a Brit, to see a war museum of another perspective! And while I have a great 'Thing' about never, ever, responding to the name Fifi, I might just possibly have to announce that Fifinella is an acceptible cognomen!!!


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