Naval Air Station Ft. Lauderdale Museum
Naval Air Station Ft. Lauderdale Museum — a Broward County Military Museum
26º 04′ 18″ N / 80º 09′ 57″ W
This museum, the NAS Fort Lauderdale Museum, is under renovation but anticipates opening late in the year. I was lucky and invited to visit while the work to have the facility made ready for the public to visit was occurring — it is great to see how things get done, is it not?
It is not large and it is not small. It has no aircraft but it has original artwork and what art it is. Done by Bob Jenny, who has sinced passed away, the art is spectacular. The main piece is a 25 foot (~7.6m) long mural of Grumman TBM Avengers landing at what is now Ft. Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. Taking place in the 1940s, these Avenger pilots and crew, were training to fight during WW II at the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station. Thousands were trained, many would become heroes, too many would die valiantly in their duty, and one would become a president of the United States — George H.W. Bush. His signature is on the mural, entitled “On Final Approach”, in October of 1992.
Another main piece that will be on exhibit is a Link trainer, one that was used to train the pilots in advanced training how to fly by only by instruments — so that the U.S. Navy would be an all weather naval aviation force.
Remarkably, too, are the dozens if professional wooden aircraft models that most of the gamut of aviation’s history. There are also numerous posters, uniforms, flags and artifacts. There aren’t plans for dining facilities and there is no need of for them since the museum is located within Ft. Lauderdale.
The back story of this museum is also one to know. The museum is run and being restored by a small core or people and it is the organizer, Allan McElhiney, who is the driving force. He is pleasant to talk with and has a sharp mind that his age does not appear to have dulled. A book has been written about him, as well as the museum — fitting since he and the museum are intertwined — its reference is cited* below.
This museum and its society also caretake the memory of Flight 19 — the five Avengers and their crew which were tragically lost off of Florida’s east coast on 5 December 1945. Compounding the hurt and the loss was the additional loss of a search and rescue PBM Mariner with her entire crew. On the anniversary the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Assoc. (NASFLHA) rings a dedicated ship’s bell in their memory at the Navy Park. This park adjoins the control tower property of the airport, is publicly accessible, and has a monument** to Flight 19.
* Allan McElhiney, One Man’s Vision: the story of the founder of the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Association (NASFLHA), John & Minerva Bloom, 2010, ISBN 978-0-557-56814-7, 114 pp.
** to see the post and the photos of this monument, paste “Flight 19” into the search window and select ENTER.