On this Memorial Day, in remembrance of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country, I thought we could look at one of the local training centers. There was the Naval Air Station Wildwood at Cape May County Airport located in Lower Township. It was originally named NAS Rio Grande. The name was changed to NAS Wildwood due to confusion with Rio Grande, Texas. The airport was started in 1941. It was used as a training center from 1943 – 1945. There were 129 crashes with a total of 42 men who died at the air station. These brave men trained as dive-bombers and were deployed in the Pacific during World War II.
It was a tragic common occurrence for the inexperienced pilots to crash. The planes were fairly untested. The tactic of dive-bombing was particularly dangerous. Their targets were staged along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic coastlines.
You can visit The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum located in the restored Hanger#1. They have a dedicated room to those 42 men who died in training. They also feature aircraft, engines, a few pieces of debris from fatal crashes, special exhibits, and interactive educational displays. The local government transitioned the Naval Air Station to a civilian airport, which is still in operation today and known as Cape May County Airport.