Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
500 Forrestal Road
Cape May Airport
Rio Grande, NJ 08242
Open: Sunday-Saturday 10:00am-4:00pm
My review on TripAdvisor:
The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is located at the back of the Cape May Airport. Just follow the road to the back of the airport at 500 Forrestal Road in Hangar #1.
This interesting museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from WWII to today from jeeps to cars and trucks to airplanes. Some of the vehicles you can step into and see what it was like to ride these pieces of aviation history.
There are several airplanes that with the assistance of the staff you can enter and see what air travel was like for these pilots. All the planes have been carefully restored and displayed for viewing and use by tourists. There is even a air traffic control tower you can enter and see how thing the functioning of the tower was done. These displays were interactive from the perspective of the people who once worked there.
In the front of the museum as you enter, along the ways there is a display of the history of the Naval Hangar and how it developed and became part of the community. There were pictures of members walking the boardwalk in Wildwood and having a good time. There were stories of many interactions between the sailors and the locals and what an exciting time it was for everyone.
Many local heroes stories were told all over the building of Navy personal from the area and the part that they played in the war years and when they returned. Each story board told of their early lives, how they got involved in the war, the roles that played and jobs that were accomplished and what their lives were like when they returned. The mindset of this generation is very different than from today.
What I really enjoyed was the documentary “Boatlift”, the story of the 9/11 rescue of thousands of people off Manhattan island on 9/11 (it was around the 20th Anniversary of the event when I toured the museum) and the bravery and involvement of boaters and sailors all over the New York maritime region. Hundreds of boats were involved in getting people to safety to New Jersey and other parts of the NYC. It was a lesson in selflessness and involvement in one of the darkest days of American history.
Outside the hangar, there are more planes to tour and equipment that is used. Each display is carefully explained of its role in the armed forces so take the time to read the plaques as well.
Inside the building towards the back, there is a display of commercial establishments and even the role of Coca Cola during the war and it being used in the ration boxes of the men and women fighting for our country. There were pictures of USO dances and get togethers and parties for the enlisted men.
There is even a space shuttle piece to explore and admire showing our progression into different types of transportation over time. The museum has carefully displayed items so that there is an order to follow around the room to admire each piece. Take the time to look them over and read about them.
This museum is an interesting step back in time to show the role New Jersey and Cape May County played during the war years and then going forward.
The Mission of the Museum:
Restoring Hangar #1, educating the public on Cape May Country’s history during WWII and memorializing the 42 naval aviators who were training at the Naval Air Station Wildwood.
The History of the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum:
(Taken from the Museum website)
Following the outbreak of World War II, this all wood double wide aircraft hangar was assembled by the U.S. Navy in 1942 from a kit delivered via railroad. On April 1st, 1943, NAS Wildwood was commissioned as a training facility for dive bomber squadrons that would go on to fight in the Pacific. Between 1943 and 1945, activities included night flying and target practice over the Delaware Bay, reaching a peak of almost 17.000 takeoffs and landings in the month of October 1944. Before NAS Wildwood was decommissioned, 129 crashes occurred and 42 airmen died in training exercises.
Following World War II, United States Overseas Airlines was operated out of Hangar #1, offering both national and international charter flights. The airline was owned by Dr. Ralph Cox, a dentist and U.S. navy pilot during WWII. Cox also used the hanger to display his collection of early automobiles and other transportation memorabilia including a steam locomotive.
Southern Jersey Airways operated a commuter airline known as the Allegheny Commuter out of the Cape May Airport. The service was started by Captain Curt Young, ho was a bomber pilot during WWII. The Allegheny Commuter offered twenty-two daily flights between Atlantic City and Philadelphia as well as eight round trips out of Cape May.
After many years of neglect, Hangar #1 was rediscovered by Dr. Joseph Salvatore and his wife, Patricia Anne, who acquired the building from Cape May County for $1.00. Listed on both the state and national registers of historic places, Hangar #1 is an exhibit in and of itself. Since 1997, the Salvatore’s and the NASW Foundation have worked hard to restore the hangar to its original condition. Today, Hangar #1 is open to the public as part of the NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum.