In the Army Now…

During the Second World War, as the United States began to upgrade and enlarge its military forces to fight in the worldwide conflict, thousands of military bases sprung up on US soil. For example, the US Army Air Corps (the predecessor of the US Air Force) had 17 bases in 1939. By 1943, that force had over 300 primary bases, 116 sub-bases, and 322 auxiliary air fields (via Wessels Living History Farm). Many of those bases have been deconstructed in the intervening decades since the war, transformed into civilian air fields, industrial centers, national parks, and some have been preserved as museums.

The Millville Army Air Field Museum, located deep in the heart of southern New Jersey, was once an expansive training facility during World War II, teaching American pilots vital combat skills for the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane. While the base has long since gained a new role as a private and commercial airfield, a portion of the WWII-era buildings remain, and house a museum dedicated to not just the aviation of World War II, but also much of the US military history of the past half of a century.

So come along, then, as we head to Millville to check out a little piece of American history!

Let’s begin:

Millville Army Air Field Museum

Map of New Jersey, with red pin in location of Millville Army Air Field Museum.
First settled in 1720, Millville was an important location for both the lumber industry and glassmaking. Millville also occupies a strategic position during times of war as it sits near the Delaware Bay, which allows access to the port of Philadelphia.
View of I-295 under a partly cloudy sky.
After several days of rain, I left home under partly cloudy skies. The sunshine began to peek out during my drive – a welcome change from the inclement weather!
Bagel sandwich on table, wrapped in tin foil, with cup of orange juice and cup of coffee.
Not much in the way of fine dining for this trip, but take-out breakfast involved a bagel sandwich from Westmont Bagel, a fantastic, family-owned and operated bagel shop in South Jersey.
View of dashboard and front windshield of Honda HR-V in car wash.
For the day’s adventure, I left my Accord behind and commandeered (hijacked?) my mom’s 2021 Honda HR-V. Mom doesn’t do a lot of long-distance driving, so this would be an opportunity to get the HR-V some exercise. First stop? The local car wash. Spring pollen season had turned the little SUV from black to green.
2021 Honda HR-V parked in front of building. Building has mural on side of P-47 fighter planes.
My Dad joined me for the day’s adventure, and after 45 minutes, we arrived at the Millville Executive Airport. As we wound our way through the roads that criss-cross the facility, this mural told us that we were heading in the right direction!
Exterior of Millville Army Airfield Museum.
At last we arrived at the Millville Army Airfield Museum, housed in what was once the headquarters for the military base.
Display on the military service of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
We began our visit by chatting with Willard, one of the volunteers on duty. Seeing our interest, he offered to give us a private tour of the museum. We began with this display on the military service of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In one of the more shameful moments of our history, Japanese-Americans were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps during the war. A number of those displaced persons ended up in and around Millville, working for local businesses. Our guide personally knew several of the people displayed on this board. One notable fact: the 442nd Infantry Regiment, composed entirely of Japanese-American soldiers, fought in Europe and remains the most decorated combat unit in the entire history of the US military (via Wikipedia).
Exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen.
There was also a small, but comprehensive, exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black pilots in the US Army Air Corps. In total, the Tuskegee Airmen flew over 15,000 missions during World War II (via Millville Army Airfield Museum).
Pratt and Whitney R-2800 engine on stand.
Millville Army Air Field was once the epicenter of P-47 Thunderbolt training, and the heart of that plane was this monster: the Pratt and Whitney R-2800, 18-cylinder engine. Built from 1939-1960, this beast could produce over 2,000 horsepower, taking the Thunderbolt to speeds in excess of 420 miles per hour.
Debris from crashed P-47 Thunderbolt.
Piloting the Thunderbolt required skill, and during WWII several pilots crashed during training, including fourteen pilots who lost their lives. There is a small memorial to these pilots in the museum.
Jettisonable auxiliary fuel tank.
The museum is crammed with assorted aviation gear, and one of the most interesting objects is this WWII-era disposable fuel tank (the black, cylindrical-shaped object). In order to achieve maximum lightness, the tank is not made out of plastic or rubber… it’s created with compressed paper!
Display on women pilots during WWII.
Although not permitted to fly in combat operations, women pilots played a key role during World War II. They would ferry fighter planes and bombers from factories to military bases, they would test new planes, and they were also often tasked with the dangerous job of flying planes that would drag airborne targets through the sky for target practice.
Exhibit on USO and military medicine in WWII.
During the war, Atlantic City’s famed beach resorts were repurposed as rehabilitation hospitals for injured and wounded combat veterans. The wheelchair (pictured) is from one such resort-turned-military-hospital.
Small collection of military toys from WWII.
In a small collection of WWII-era toys, one object caught both my and my dad’s eye: a practice bomb that was turned into a child’s scooter (center).
Display of Japanese military memorabilia from WWII.
The military had a collection of both Nazi German and Imperial Japanese equipment from World War II. One of the most interesting, and chilling, objects was the headband worn by kamikaze pilots, whose mission was to turn their airplanes into human-directed projectiles.
POW-MIA exhibit.
This small, but sobering, exhibit on soldiers missing in action was very well designed. From World War II through today, over 81,000 American service personnel remain missing in action (via Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency).
I-bean from World Trade Center.
The museum also housed a small piece of the remains of the World Trade Center. As an aside, 9/11/2001 feels like it was just a few years ago. It’s jarring to think that it took place over two decades in the past.
A-4 Skyhawk.
The museum houses a few larger pieces on its property, including this Cold War-era A-4 Skyhawk. This particular jet saw service in the Vietnam War.
M60A3 Patton tank.
Another Cold War-era fighting machine: an M60A3 Patton tank. Although long-since obsolete, a number of these tanks continue to serve in militaries around the world. A variation of the M60 that carries a 60-foot long bridge for crossing rivers and other obstacles is still useful – the United States recently donated 8 of these mobile bridges to Ukraine.
C-23 Sherpa.
Looking like something from World War II, the C-23 Sherpa transport plane was actually introduced in 1984. The Sherpa was designed to take off and land from short, unpaved runways, providing transport to areas lacking a proper airport. After a fun hour at the museum, my Dad and I climbed back into the HR-V and set off for home.
Car odometer reading 006081 miles.
I dropped Dad off and then returned my Mom’s commandeered vehicle. The six thousand mile mark is now in the books… onward!!
Car odometer reading 216438 TRIP A 121.6
At the end of the day, it was time to jump back in old faithful, my 2012 Honda Accord for the drive home. 217,000 miles is right around the corner!

Wrapping Up

As I said in my last post, I continue to enjoy finding these little-known gems throughout my home state. The Millville Army Airfield Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The best part? The museum is totally free to visit, although donations are greatly appreciated!

Thanks, as always, for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

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