The exhibit includes letters highlighting their spirit and sacrifice, and the families left behind.
Florida Remembers World War II is a permanent exhibit showcasing the uniforms, equipment, weapons and memories of the people who served.
LT James Polkinghorne was a young fighter pilot from Pensacola with the prestigious Tuskegee Airmen. Exhibit co-curator Lisa Craft points to a poignant letter Polkinghorne’s mother received from the Army Adjutant General.
“He had disappeared on a mission in May 1944 and they did not recover a body so they wrote to her again six months later saying there had been no change in his status,” Craft explains.
Polkinghorne’s remains were eventually recovered in Italy. His proud loved ones donated these mementoes to the museum.
There is a kiosk that allows you to listen to interviews with veterans and read through personal letters. Army PVT Bob Denny writes to mother and daddy, “The ground is beginning to feel soft after sleeping on it now for awhile.”
One letter from Marine PVT Curtis Johnson of Orlando cheerfully thanks friends for a care package containing a flashlight, cigarettes and magazines, but it must have referred to a location or something else military censors had a problem with because they cut a big hole in it.
“They really didn’t want people to divulge locations because if the letter ever fell into enemy hands; that would give an advantage to the enemy, so oftentimes they just cut out the information or take a marker and blacken it out,” Craft says.
Historians hope these glimpses into the personal lives of those who served and those waiting anxiously on the home front will help preserve their legacy for future generations.
Approximately 248,000 Floridians served in World War II. The Museum of Florida History is located in downtown Tallahassee. It is open seven days a week except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For information, call 850-245-6400.