Local historians consider Mabry Air Field museum

Photo: Florida State Archives / FloridaMemory.com
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Did you know that a busy section of southwest Tallahassee used to be a major airfield during World War II?

On its 75th anniversary, a group of local historians say they want to establish a museum dedicated to it.

From 1940-45, over 8,000 fighter pilots received training at Dale Mabry Air Field, including the Tuskegee Airmen, according to historians. Air fields in Perry, Florida and Thomasville, Townsend, and Waycross, Georgia were all sub-bases of Mabry Air Field.

“Today, a flag will fly over the U.S. Capitol commemorating the 75th anniversary of Dale Mabry Army Air Field’s first Open House, and in symbolic fashion we are filing articles of incorporation with an effective date also of April 6, 2017,” said Chuck Wells, who is leading the effort.

The base was officially activated in January of 1941 and roughly 8,000 people, which was about half of Tallahassee's population at the time, visited the base at a 1942 open house, according to Wells. After World War II, the air field was reverted back to local control and re-purposed, at one point partially serving as the west campus of Florida State University.

“Today the base is our own ‘Pompeii’, a lost city buried under modern-day Tallahassee," Wells says. "Most people are surprised to learn there was a base here, but if you know what you are looking for, remnants can still be found."

Sabal Palms elementary now sits at where the center of the air field once was. Appleyard Drive was actually built over a runway, and the aged asphalt of the northwest-southeast runway is still visible near the Messer Sports Complex.

Then, of course, there's Mabry Street, which at one time led to where the base's buildings once stood.

Today, a group of local history buffs is unveiling their plan to explore the possibility of a museum dedicated to the air base, and launched a website at www.dmaaf.org.

Organizers says that the story of the airfield is also the story of World War II and the generation that fought the war.

“A dedicated museum would preserve the Dale Mabry Army Air Field’s contribution to Tallahassee, and a generation’s indelible mark on American society,” said Wells. “This is too connected to Tallahassee and too historically important to be told only through text books.”

Photo: Florida State Archives / FloridaMemory.com

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