POOLER, Ga. (WSAV) – A major expansion is in store for the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. The $10 million campaign is underway with plans to update and expand their exhibits and facilities.
Eighty years ago, the preservation of the stories of the Eighth Air Force began. Now, the 350,000 men and women who served in the largest air armada in world history will continue to inspire future generations through what will be a 30,000 square foot expansion.
“People like Chip and his comrades in the air, they saved the world. This museum is saving their stories,” John O’Neil, museum co-chair Maximum effort project explained.
The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force preserves stories like those of 97-year-old veteran Charles. P. “Chip” Phillips, who is the last surviving member of his crew.
“I was in Eighth Air Force, 92nd Bomber Group. My whole crew is gone. I am the only one to survive. My crew and the crew of nine, and most of my phone book and my address book, most of them are gone,” Phillips said.
Every year, thousands of people pass through the museum’s atrium to learn the stories of bravery and patriotism, but many of those stories don’t always reach the next generation.
“My dad was a pilot in the Eighth Air Force, flew 32 missions. Personally, when I was growing up, I didn’t have the curiosity to ask my dad a lot of questions and try to get stories out of him, and that is usually the case with young people,” Richard “Sandy” Alderson, an Uber with the Mighty Eighth Foundation Board of Trustees added his support for the project’s goal of making history accessible to younger generations.
the Maximum effort the expansion will enlarge the museum, adding a full-size B-17 on display in the Battle Gallery. 87% of the museum’s collections are behind closed doors, the addition will expand gallery space for new exhibitions and the STEM education center, creating greater access to historical narratives and funding for preservation efforts.
“This campaign is really about keeping the museum relevant for the next generation who need to hear the message but maybe want to hear the message differently than they did 25 years ago,” Alderson explained.
Board members said the expansion will increase digital interaction for people around the world to learn about the incredible stories of the Eighth Air Force. They will begin in the fall and the completion of the project is expected to take two years.