Tallahassee expert speaks on the history of the Dale Mabry Army Airfield

CEO of the Dale Mabry Army Airfield Museum speaks about the history of the airfield and how items could be found from it today.
Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 1:06 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 11:00 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Wednesday’s bomb scare is not the first time police have gotten a call like this in that area of Collegetown.

In Nov. 2016, military explosives experts were called in to detonate a World War II bomb uncovered on Madison Street.

Construction workers found it entangled in the roots of a tree. Members of the Air Force dug a 14-foot hole to bury the bomb and covered it with sandbags before detonating it.

Now, the reason law enforcement was so cautious is because of the history of the area.

Tallahassee used to be the home of the Dale Mabry Army Airfield, where several planes loaded with bombs would take off.

The Big Bend area is known to be full of history, but one of its best-kept secrets may be an Army airfield located right here in Tallahassee.

”We had a major fighter training base here in Tallahassee called the Dale Mabry Army Airfield and its location was basically where Tallahassee Community College is today. Appleyard Drive was the north-south runaway,” shared Dale Mabry Army Airfield Museum CEO Chuck Wells.

Wells says the airfield was bigger than FSU’s footprint today, with historic duplexes on FSU’s campus that housed officers.

”There were 77 units here and what was known as Mabry Heights. Obviously ‘Mabry,’ because of Mabry Army Airfield, and ‘heights’ being on one of Tallahassee’s seven hills,” Wells broke down.

The airfield trained between 6,000 to 8,000 fighter pilots during WWII, who took part in more than 80,000 flights. So when bomb scare incidents like Wednesday’s occur, it doesn’t surprise Wells.

”I mean I’m surprised it’s been five years since the last one was discovered. I drive down Gaines Street all the time and I think to myself, ‘I see all this construction going on over here and I wonder what they are going to find.’ And I hold my breath because I wouldn’t want anybody to get hurt,” says Wells.

Luckily Wednesday’s device was not a bomb, but if it was, Wells says it would have been live just like the one in 2016.

”If it had been a bomb, it would have been a live munition, and those bombs were meant to destroy things,” warned Wells. “If it had been a bomb, then they would’ve exploded it most likely right there on site.”

While its history has left us with some scares, Wells feels the airfield is a big reason Tallahassee is the city it is today.

”The Dale Mabry Army Airfield had a profound impact social-economically on Tallahassee,” Wells insisted. “It really change the trajectory and brought Tallahassee to where it is today as a major city in the state of Florida.”

Needless to say, Wells believes this area is full of history and artifacts, and if anyone were to come across anything dangerous, he suggests that they contact law enforcement.

Wells says he also is continuing to collect artifacts from the time of the airfield and hopes to open up the museum on TCC’s campus by 2024.

To learn more about the museum and the history of the airfield, you can visit their website.

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