In the early 1940s, Zephyrhills Army Airfield served as a training ground for hundreds of Army pilots during World War II.
When the airfield was built in 1942, Zephyrhills, Florida, was home to some 800 people. Over the course of the war, the population doubled as Army pilots came to the small town to train. Between January 1943 and January 1944, about 500 men from the Army’s 10th Fighter Squadron were stationed here, filling the skies with fighter aircraft that would eventually make their way to the European theater.
The airfield was used to train pilots in air defense tactics and ground intercept missions. In June 1944, the 10th Fighter Squadron supported Allied ground forces during the invasion of Normandy. Pilots trained on P-51 Mustangs, single-seat planes that served as the American military’s main fighter-bomber crafts for many years. Through the rest of that summer, the 10th squadron operated out of bases in northeast France.
After the Allies won the war, the Zephyrhills airfield and many other training facilities around the country were no longer needed. Much of the military equipment was sent to other bases and ownership of the airfield was transferred to the city. Though most of the military barracks were demolished, one infirmary building still stood on the former training ground.
But at more than 60 years old, the exterior of the building was deteriorating. In March 2015, the city government set out to renovate the historic building, which is now the Zephyrhills Museum of Military History.
Today, visitors to the museum can see period weaponry, military uniforms, wartime supplies and archival photographs. These are the treasured memories of the veterans who fought in World War II and other wars, including the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Outside the museum stands a Douglas DC-3 aircraft.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
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