The History of Naval Air Station Wildwood in New Jersey

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I. Naval Air Station Wildwood

Southern New Jersey, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River, had been inextricably tied to naval aviation with several air stations during World War II. The largest, and therefore most important, had been Naval Air Station Wildwood.

Tracing its origins to President Roosevelt, who had used New Deal funds to construct civilian airports under the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) for military conversion in the event of war, Naval Air Station Wildwood had been sparked by the emerging need for a pilot training base to protect the Atlantic seaboard from German submarines which had targeted US supply ships traveling to Britain. Nazi Germany, having already captured France in June of 1942, had become an increasing threat.

In Southern New Jersey, the US Coast Guard transferred its station, which had been originally built as a World War I naval base in 1917, to the Navy, which had then commissioned it Naval Air Station Cape May in September of 1940 and from which observation and scout squadron training had subsequently been conducted.

But the urgency for additional facilities had heightened the following year when the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, alerting of the need for naval aircraft and proficient dive-bomber pilots. The Cape May base had been pitifully inadequate for this purpose, prompting a series of surveys in Lower Township for additional land.

An initial 500 acres, leased for $1.00 from Cape May County for later conversion to civilian use, had resulted in March, 1942 governmental construction bids, and workmen, under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, commenced the arduous deforestation process by clearing trees and filling in swamps to prepare land for a fighting squadron training base in Rio Grande. Although the construction effort had been successful, its purpose had not been: the Army ultimately elected to establish a similar facility some 40 miles north, in Millville, abandoning the project.

The cleared, 500-acre area, with potential application as an auxiliary field for the inadequately-sized Cape May Naval Air Station, had still been 400 acres short of the Navy’s stipulated 900-acre requirement, and this had only been remedied by the Cape May County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ emergency resolution authorizing an additional $15,000 for land acquisition. The win-win expenditure had been perceived as providing both the Navy with the needed land for its base and the county with the needed employment to arrest it from its economic fall into Depression’s quicksand, although the need for such a facility had been clearly demonstrated by the concurrent Battle of the Coral Sea in May and the Battle of Midway in June, victories only sustainable with the qualified bases where pilots could be trained. In fact, the number of such pilots had been estimated as 20,000. The proposed Rio Grande base, it had been argued, would be crucial to sustaining naval aviation’s imprint in the Pacific.

Resultantly, the Navy, leasing the land from the county and appropriating $500,000 for the new airfield, commenced construction in October of 1942, subsequently completing one 4,000-foot runway, three 5,000-foot runways, a control tower, hangars, barracks, an operations building, a mess hall, a water supply station, a steam heating plant, a sewage system, and roads, providing employment for 362 local civilians.

The base, adopting its name from the nearest post office, had been commissioned “Naval Air Station Rio Grande” on April 1, 1943, and Lieutenant Commander Morris Ruggles Brownell, Jr. had assumed command of it, but early confusion with the identically-named city in Texas had resulted in its redesignation as “Naval Air Station Wildwood” on June 17, a name hitherto only associated with a southern New Jersey beach resort. Supplemented by Woodbine Auxiliary Airfield, which had opened two months later, in August, and a facility in Delaware, the new naval air station met the Navy’s capacity needs and enabled it to concentrate dive-bombing pilot training at the new field. It had also operated in conjunction with Naval Air Stations Cape May and Atlantic City.

Composite Squadron Thirty (VC-30) of Carrier Air Group 30 (CAG30) had been the first to have been commissioned by the Navy at its new facility in April of 1943 for the USS Monterey, although the squadron’s size had initially necessitated the use of eight Westward huts and tents and hotels in Wildwood for 150 of its pilots until base facility construction had been completed.

The initially-combined Bombing Squadron Fourteen and Fifteen (VB-14 and VB-15), training under the “Fleet Air Detachment Wildwood Operation Plan for the Defense of the Eastern Sea Frontier” in Douglas SDB Dauntless aircraft, practiced squadron flying, individual bombing practice, diving, navigation, glide bombing, fixed gunnery, free gunnery, instrument night flying, and anti-submarine surface strafing.

II. Naval Air Station Wildwood Aircraft

Instrumental to Naval Air Station Wildwood and the Navy’s combat strategy in the Pacific had been the dive-bomber aircraft, which provided precision attacks of rapidly moving targets at steep descent angles. Such designs, of the low-wing, metal airframe type usually powered by a single piston engine, had been capable of operating from aircraft carriers with arrester hook provision and had been equipped with dive brakes, such as split flaps, to prohibit excessive, unrecoverable profiles, limit airframe stress, and increase the maneuver’s duration to improve the accuracy, aim, and trajectory of the bomb itself, which had typically been carried on a hinged bomb rack. After its release, it had to be projected downward, with sufficient clearance from the propeller arc to avoid interference.

The Douglas SBD Dauntless, the first such dive-bomber to be deployed at the station, had been the Navy’s standard, ship-borne aircraft responsible for several decisive victories in the Pacific. Based upon the Northrop BT-1, a scout and dive-bomber, it had been given life as the XBT-1 when the Navy had ordered a single prototype. First flying in this form on August 19, 1935, the aircraft, powered by a 700-hp Pratt and Whitney R-1535-66 Twin Wasp Junior two-row radial engine, had featured a low wing; split flaps; aftward, semi-retractable main wheels stored in underwing fairings; and a fixed tailwheel, but the airframe, considered underpowered, had subsequently been refitted with uprated, 825-hp R-1535-94 engines in December, and the split flaps had been replaced with the holed type to rectify handling characteristics.

The subsequent XBT-2, significantly modified after Douglas had acquired Northrop, featured a tandemly arranged, forward-facing pilot and rearward-facing, gunner/radio operator; fabric-covered ailerons, elevators, and rudders; two.50-caliber Browning machine guns installed in the nose cowling and synchronized to fire through the propeller arc; an under-fuselage, swinging cradle release-mounted, 1,600-pound bomb; and two underwing, 100-pound bomb pylons. Powered by a 1,000-hp, nine-cylinder, air-cooled Wright Cyclone R-1820-32 radial engine which drove a three-bladed, adjustable-pitch, spinner-equipped propeller, the aircraft stored fuel in two 90-gallon, wing integral tanks, four wing center section tanks totaling 210 gallons; and a single, 15-gallon auxiliary fuel tank.

The design, redesignated SBD-1 under the Douglas model scheme, had entered service with the Marines’ VMB-2 Squadron in 1940 and the Navy had equally operated 57 of the type.

Despite its extensive improvement program, it had still lacked sufficient range and had been devoid of armor protection, resulting in the SBD-2, which had featured a 100-gallon fuel capacity increase and revised ammunition. It had entered service with the Navy with the 58th airframe.

The succeeding SBD-3 had addressed several earlier deficiencies by introducing a still larger fuel capacity, self-sealing fuel tanks, crew and armor protection, a bullet-proof windshield, a Wright Cyclone R-1820-52 engine, and modified cowling.

The SBD-4 had featured a hydromatic propeller and replaced the previous 12-volt electrical system with a 24-volt one, while the SBD-5, the most numerically produced version, had been built at Douglas’ new Tulsa, Oklahoma, factory. Featuring a 33-foot overall length and a 41.6-foot wingspan, the 1,200-hp Pratt and Whitney R-1820-66-powered aircraft had a 10,855-pound maximum take off weight and a 255-mph maximum speed. It had had a 770-mile range.

The final version, the SBD-6, had featured the most capable powerplant, at a 1,350-hp rating, and the largest fuel capacity.

The Douglas SBD Dauntless had been instrumental in numerous Pacific theatre victories. In the Battle of Midway, for example, which had occurred on June 4, 1942, the type had destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers, sank a heavy cruiser, and severely damaged another, while it sank the Ryugo in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. In the Battle of Guadalcanal, which had taken place between November 12 and 15 of that year, it had destroyed nine transports and sank the cruiser Kinugasa, ending its career as a carrier-borne aircraft two years later on June 20, 1944 with victories against the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

During initial Douglas Dauntless training at Naval Air Station Wildwood, however, it had not been so victorious, with mounting casualties of the very pilots who had trained in them because of poor handling characteristic-created accidents, prompting a replacement trainer.

That replacement appeared in the form of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, whose instability, structural weakness, and inferior design had hardly been synonymous with “improvement.”

Based upon the antiquated biplane design of the 1930s intended for dive-bombing maneuvers, the aircraft had been considerably modernized when the Navy had submitted specifications in 1938 for a carrier-based scout bomber accommodating two crew members and able to internally carry 1,000 pounds of bombs over long ranges.

The resultant prototype, designated XSBC2C-1, had first taken to the skies on December 18, 1940, but had been structurally weak and had demonstrated poor handling characteristics, sustaining engine failure two months later on February 8 during an approach and crashing. The US military, intending to target performance deficiencies on production aircraft, had already ordered the type, and an initial series of redesigns, entailing a longer fuselage, a larger tail, increased armor, installation of an autopilot, and self-sealing fuel tanks, had resulted in an airplane which bore little resemblance to its earlier iteration.

The new version, first flying on October 20, 1941, sustained in-flight structural failure during a test flight two months later, on December 21, forcing its pilot to parachute to safety, and during demonstrations of the first six production aircraft, it had been determined that the 40-percent gross weight increase, from the 7,122 pounds of the initial version to the 10,220 pounds of the current one, had been dangerously excessive.

The aircraft, appearing in its initial SB2C-1 guise, had been an all-metal, mid-wing monoplane powered by a single, 14-cylinder, air-cooled, two-row, Double Wasp, 1,700-hp Wright R-2600-8 piston engine which drove a three-bladed propeller. The wings, which folded to facilitate aircraft carrier storage, featured inboard, split flaps for dive-bombing profiles and outboard ailerons and their fuel tanks had been self-sealing. Crew had been accommodated in fore and aft, greenhouse-style canopy cockpits, and the tail-dragging configuration had sported an under-fuselage, stinger-type-arresting hook. Armament had included four 12.7-mm, wing-installed Browning machine guns, a 1,000-pound bomb bay-stored bomb, and a flexible mount in the rear cockpit.

All of the 200 SB2C-1s built had been used for pilot training.

The succeeding SB2C-1C, of which 778 had been produced, had featured additional fuel tankage and had been the first to enter combat, its initial raid targeting the Japanese stronghold of Rabaul on November 11, but the design had been woefully underpowered.

The singularly-produced SB2C-2 had been intended for amphibian operation with floats, while the SB2C-3, attempting to rectify the basic design’s power deficiency had been equipped with a four-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller run by a 1,900-hp R-2600-20 engine. Entering service in 1944, the type had enjoyed a considerable production run, of 1,112.

The SB2C-4, the most extensively produced variant with 2,045 airframes, had featured a 36.8-foot overall length and a 49.9-foot wingspan, whose perforated flaps had minimized dive-induced buffeting. Powered by the previous version’s R-2600-20 engine, the 16,616-pound fighter, armed with two wing-mounted, 20-mm cannons; two aft cockpit-installed, 7.62-mm machine guns; and fuselage bay and underwing rack-carried, 2,000-pound bombs; could achieve a maximum speed of 295 mph and cover up to 1,165 miles.

The SB2C-5, the last major variant to have been built, had introduced a fuel capacity increase. Nine hundred seventy had been produced.

Navy Squadron VB-17, based on the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill, had been the first to successfully operate the SB2C Helldiver, launching 23 aircraft, divided into six, four-unit divisions, in its first major combat campaign in November of 1943.

During the subsequent four-month period, the type conducted dive-bombing missions to Tarawaya, Nauru, New Zealand, Truk, and the Marshall Islands, and by June of the following year, Helldiver fleets had been based on the five aircraft carriers of Bunker Hill, Essex, Hornet, Wasp, and Yorktown. Four months later this number had increased to eight.

Operating with TBM Avengers, the SB2Cs had succeeded in sinking the super battleship, Musashi, and later claimed 44 air-to-air victories, having achieved more shipping kills than any other aircraft type.

Although the Helldiver had initially been plagued with an antiquated heritage and numerous design deficiencies, progressively introduced modifications had rendered it an effective dive-bomber which had been instrumental in many Pacific theatre victories.

As a solution for Naval Air Station Wildwood’s accident rate, however, it had only served to produce the opposite effect: with the introduction of the aircraft to the training program, the number of pilot training fatalities had increased!

The Combined Bombing Squadron Fifty-Two (VC-52), arriving at the station in September of 1943, commenced gunnery and torpedo training with the base’s third major carrier-based fighter, the Grumman TBF-1 Avenger.

Sparked by the Navy’s requirements for a powerful torpedo bomber with a 300-mph speed, a 1,000-mile range with a maximum 2,000-pound payload, a 30,000-foot service ceiling, and an internal weapons bay, the aircraft, designated XTBF-1 and designed by Grumman’s Iron Works, had appeared with a rugged fuselage and a Wright 14-cylinder, 1,700-hp, double row radial R-2600-8 engine. Its wings, whose large area had resulted in simplistic flying characteristics, had folded flat against the airframe in order to reduce required carrier storage space, and its armament had consisted of three.30-caliber machine guns, one of which had been mounted on the nose and fired through the propeller arc, one of which had been located in the belly and fired rearward, and one of which had been installed as a rear gunner turret. Because of its mid-wing mounting, sufficient internal space had been created to store a 2,000-pound torpedo, four 500-pound bombs, or additional fuel, and the three-person crew had encompassed the pilot, the rear gunner, and the bombardier/belly gunner.

The first production aircraft, designated TBF-1, had first flown on August 1, 1941, and the insatiable need for this very capable fighter had required additional manufacturing capability in the form of a General Motors production line. So manufactured, it had been designated TBM-1, and had first appeared in this guise in late-1942.

The modified TBF-1C, with fuel tank provision in the bomb bay, as well as two wing integral tanks, had increased capacity from 335 to 726 gallons, resulting in a coincident range increase, and the single,.30-caliber machine gun had been replaced by two,.50-caliber, wing-mounted units, as well as an additional one for the turret. The General Motors-manufactured counterpart had been designated TBM-1C.

The ultimate, and numerically most produced, variant, the TBM-3, had featured a 40-foot, 11.5-inch overall length and a 54.2-foot wingspan. Powered by a 1,900-hp Wright R-2600-20 engine, the aircraft, used for reconnaissance, scouting, and torpedo and glide bombing, had been equipped with a forward-facing, dorsal and ventral machine gun, as well as wing hard points for rockets or drop tanks. With a 17,895-pound gross weight, it could climb at 2,060 feet-per-minute, cruise at a maximum, 276-mph speed, and fly 1,000-mile sorties. Some 4,657 had been produced.

Although only six Grumman TBF Avengers had been delivered in time for the June 4, 1942 Battle of Midway, five had been destroyed in two separate missions, while the sixth had succeeded in dropping its torpedo before returning to base with little more than its trim tab to provide longitudinal control.

Two months later, on August 24, 26 aircraft had been launched from the Saratoga and Enterprise carriers near the Solomon Islands, sinking the light carrier Ryugo on the second of four strikes with a torpedo.

And yet three months later, in November, the 37,000-ton Hiei, leading Japanese naval forces, had been destroyed after multiple strikes by Avengers in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

In the North Atlantic, the type, operating from the USS Bogue, had destroyed some 30 submarines and ripped a cavernous hole in the Japanese transport, I-52.

One of the most famous Avenger pilots, George H. W. Bush, had been shot down on September 2, 1944 over Chichi Jima after take off from the USS San Jacinto, although he had successfully parachuted to safety.

Two months later, the aircraft had been instrumental in sinking the Japanese battleship, Musashi, in the Battle of the Subuyan Sea.

The final testament to the type’s ruggedness and torpedo-launching capability had occurred on April 7, 1945 when a fleet of Avengers had destroyed the battleship Yamato and the cruiser Yahagi during their journey to Okinawa.

Of the 9,836 Avengers produced, 7,546 had been built by General Motors.

The fourth major aircraft to be used at Naval Air Station Wildwood, perhaps attempting to rectify the earlier SB2C’s flaws, had offered diametrically opposed efficiency and performance. Its speed and capability, unduplicated by any present fighter, had enabled it to outrun and outclimb any propeller-driven enemy aircraft. That aircraft had been the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair.

Based upon the US Navy Bureau of Aeronautics requirement for a high-performance, carrier-based fighter submitted to the Vought-Sikorsky Division of the United Aircraft Corporation, the proposed design, designated the V-166-A, had projected use of the air-cooled, Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Wasp radial engine because of its service reliability, but speed targets could only be met with the much larger XR-2800-4 Double Wasp. Hitherto the world’s most powerful piston powerplant, it had developed more than 100 hp per cylinder, of which there had been 18, requiring a 13.4-foot diameter, three-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic propeller. Although it had required considerable ground clearance because of its size, the very purpose for which a carrier-based fighter had been designed had dictated short, robust landing gear struts to withstand the rapid, often deck-pounding contact and almost instantaneous deceleration required of such an operation. As a result, these parameters had dictated conflictive design solutions, and engineers had only been able to ensure both sufficient propeller clearance and short enough undercarriage linkage by introducing a gull wing configuration, which had coincidentally improved the aircraft’s aerodynamic characteristics, thereby augmenting higher operational speeds. It had been the first to feature flushly stored wheels in the retracted mode.

The Pratt and Whitney engine, whose air inlet had been located in the wing root, closely conformed to the fuselage’s circular shape.

First flying on May 29, 1940 in prototype form, the aircraft, designated XF4U-1, had been powered by the 1,850-hp R-2800-4 engine and had featured a greenhouse-type cockpit and four.50-caliber Colt-Browning machine guns, two of which had been installed in the nose and two of which had been located in the wings.

The first production standard version, the F4U-1, had been powered by the 2,000-hp R-2800-8 and had featured exclusively wing-mounted armament. Taking to the skies on July 31, 1942, it had been the first fighter to exceed 400 mph in level flight.

Several subsequent versions had been offered. The F4U-2, for example, had been intended for night missions, while the F4U-3 had been designed for high-altitude operations coupling its 2,000-hp R-2800-16 Double Wasp engine with two Bierman model 1009A turbo-superchargers. Because of its mechanical difficulties, it had eroded its performance and the variant had been quickly discontinued.

The F4U-4, a fighter-bomber version, had featured a 33.8-foot overall length and a 41-foot wingspan, which had rendered a 314-square-foot area. Its 2,100-hp R-2800-18W engine, driving a four-bladed propeller, had been equipped with methanol-water injection, thus producing a five-minute, war-emergency rating of 2,450 hp and resulting in a maximum, 446-mph airspeed. Its service ceiling had been 41,500 feet.

The F4U-5, the definitive version, had featured a five-inch longer fuselage; a two-degree, downward-angled engine to increase stability; duralumin outer wing panels and control surfaces to cater to its higher speeds; and a 2,350-hp, dual supercharger-equipped Pratt and Whitney R-2800-32W engine. The type had a 45,000-foot service ceiling.

In January of 1945, an additional $500,000 appropriation had enabled Naval Air Station Wildwood to expand and acquire new equipment, including weapons, tactics, link trainers, a 20-mm gunnery school, and a catapult and arresting gear to foster carrier landing practice at its Georgetown Auxiliary Field. Part of this appropriation had been used to acquire rocket-equipped F4U Corsairs.

Although the station had originally been designed for 108 officers, 1,200 enlisted men, and 72 aircraft, these numbers had swelled to 443, 2,497, and 154, respectively, and by October of 1944, take offs and landings had peaked at 16,994. Dive bombing target practice had occurred along the Atlantic and Delaware Bay coasts, while a lighting system at an affiliated field had enabled pilots to perfect night carrier landings.

When the respective training had been completed, the pilots, now arranges in air groups, had transferred to their assigned aircraft carriers.

III. Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

When victory had closed the doors on World War II’s theaters in 1945, the Navy had discontinued its training programs at Naval Air Station Wildwood and by December of the following year, it had been deactivated, its 109 buildings having been declared surplus. Of these, 79 had been offered by the War Assets Administration, which had intermittently acquired the property, for off-site use, while several larger structures had been given to Cape May County, which had resumed operation of the station. Hanger Number One, which had been designed by architect Albert Kahn and whose construction had commenced as far back as October of 1942, had been one of them.

Formed by bolted wood Pratt trusses subdivided into ten-foot panels at the roof level, the cavernous, 2,558,000-cubic-foot structure had been 290 feet long, 219 feet wide, and 51 feet high, and had been completed with cross-braced vertical supports at its north and south elevations and a center support, which had once provided the division between its two internal bays. Its east and west elevations had been created by 12 full-height telescoping doors. Aside from once housing the air station’s aircraft fleet, it had also featured offices, workrooms, and maintenance facilities.

The hangar, having been used for several post-war purposes, had headquartered United States Overseas Airlines (USOA) between 1949 and 1964, which had provided a global route system with its own fleet and in-flight crews, and it had also briefly housed a banner-towing aircraft company.

The subsequently abandoned structure, having fallen into a state of disrepair with rotting wood and cracked windows, had been resurrected by Dr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Salvatore in 1997, who had formed the not-for-profit Naval Air Station Wildwood Foundation to save and preserve it as a memorial to the 42 pilots who had lost their lives during their training here between 1943 and 1945, and had subsequently been listed on the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places at the National Significance Level. That hangar now houses the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, which features some 30 aircraft, engines, interactive exhibits provided by the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, films, a library, and a gift shop.

Of the aircraft, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, featuring a three-bladed propeller, folding wings, self-sealing fuel tanks, and six machine guns, had served at the station, and had been the first US-designed fighter capable of downing a German aircraft.

The Consolidated PBY Catalina, a high-wing, twin-engined, hull-shaped airframe for amphibian operations, had been a patrol bomber armed with.50-caliber Browning machine guns, torpedoes, and depth charges, and had performed multi-role missions, including submarine scouting, search and rescue, and escorting.

The Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, built in 1943, had been the most prevalently used World War II primary trainer. The two-person, single-engine, open cockpit biplane had served as the initial step before pilot transition to heavier, more complex equipment.

The Vultee BT-13, often the “next step,” had featured tandem controls and instruments, and had also been extensively used.

The Grumman TBM-3E Avenger, one of the main aircraft based at Naval Air Station Wildwood, is one of only eight designs, like the very hangar which houses it, included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The T-28C Trojan, which had replaced the AT-6 Texan in Asia and Africa, had provided carrier landing practice, and is equipped with an arresting hook. It had been used for close air support against enemy ground forces.

The OE-2 Bird Dog, the military version of the four-seat, twin-bladed, high-wing, tailwheel Cessna 170, had carried white phosphorous target-marking rockets under its wings during the Vietnam War and had also been used as an observation aircraft.

Several rotary-wing designs are also represented by the museum. The HH-52A Seaguard amphibious search-and-rescue helicopter, for example, features a hull-like fuselage and outrigger floats and had been stationed on a US Coast Guard ice breaker.

The AH-1 Cobra, backbone of the US Army’s attack helicopter fleet and a type still in use today, had been equipped with rocket mounts and machine guns. Formerly part of a Vietnam “Kill Team,” it had trailed a LOACH, which had drawn ground fire.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois Huey, the most widely used military helicopter with more than 16,000 having been produced, had been instrumental in numerous missions, such as air assault, command and control, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, gunship, and transport, particularly during the Vietnam War, although it is still used by the Air Force and the Marines today.

Jet fighters are also represented. The Lockheed T-33 Thunderbird, a low-wing, single-engine, dual-seat trainer with a bubble canopy, had progressed from drawing board to airplane in 150 days. Its F-80C Shooting Star counterpart had served for some 40 years in more than 20 world air forces. The museum’s example itself had served in the Yugoslavian Air Force.

The single-engined, delta-winged McDonnell-Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, which had first entered service with the Navy in 1956, could operate from an aircraft carrier, yet deliver nuclear weapons.

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat features dual engines and vertical tails. The museum’s F-14A, which had entered service in 1982, had later been upgraded to F-14B standard and had been the first to exceed 7,000 takes offs and landings from the USS John F. Kennedy.

The Northrop F-5E Tiger II, a lightweight supersonic fighter deployed during the Cold War, had been designed as a response to the Soviet MiG-21.

Aside from the actual fixed and rotary wing aircraft, the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum often hosts fly-ins, veterans’ ceremonies, historical lectures, and school field trips.

The 1,000-acre Cape May Airport, the museum’s location, is itself of historic value, having evolved from the naval air station. Sporting two 4,998-foot runways (1-19 and 10-28), six taxiways, and three parking ramps, the general aviation facility annually fields 39,000 movements primarily comprised of corporate, recreational, and charter aircraft, and stands as a testament to the location where fields, once cultivating corn, had later cultivated pilots whose dive-bombing skills had been instrumental in Pacific theatre and ultimate World War II victory.

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