Organizations: The Mighty Eighth
The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum serves as more than “just an airplane museum.”
“We have airplanes, but we’re primarily a ‘story museum,’” explains Henry Skipper, president and CEO of the institution in Pooler, just outside Savannah, “telling the stories of the 350,000 men who flew in the largest air armada in the history of warfare. We would not have won World War II without them.”
The Mighty Eighth, which remains an active unit, was first organized in Savannah just after the Pearl Harbor attack as part of the Army Air Corps. More than 26,000 of its members were killed, with an additional 26,000 injured or held as prisoners of war.
“Sometimes a single mission would involve 2,000 airplanes, and the Mighty Eighth lost more men than the Marines – a statistic that always surprises people,” Skipper says.
The 90,000-square-foot nonprofit museum, established in 1996, has grown into a renowned research center and library, drawing scholars and historians from around the world. In fact, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks just announced plans for a 10-part miniseries about the Mighty Eighth, similar in tone and scope to Band of Brothers.
“Most of the research will be done here at the museum, so we’re expecting a big boom in visitors,” Skipper says.
The museum, where several nonagenarian WWII veterans work as volunteers and tour guides, also funds the “Character Counts” program for Chatham County schools, drawing from examples of heroism honored at the museum.
“So far, 50,000 children have experienced this character education program, which provides another way for the stories of these brave men to live on and to influence another generation for the better,” Skipper says.