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Honors for the Greatest Generation, Mysteries from the Bermuda Triangle

By David Boegaard

Today, the Air Station no longer does work for the Navy. But Navy missions have been replaced by the NASFL Museum's mission. Their mission is to educate visitors, preserve the memory of the NAS Fort Lauderdale, and honor the heroes. "We have steadily developed the Museum into a place enjoyed not only by the local public, but also by national, and international visitors," says Bloom. Run by an all volunteer staff with a passion for the NASFL, the Museum has become a destination for vacationers to the South Florida region.

The NASFL Museum is located within the historic Link Trainer Building #8. At one time, the complex was massive, but today the Link Trainer Building #8 is the only remaining building. When the location was a functioning Air Station, the Link Building "housed 6-8 Link Trainer flight simulators," says Bloom. "It is the only remaining structure left on the naval base property, the sole reminder of a naval complex of more than 200 buildings." The simulator was an essential component for training aviators to pilot the Avenger aircraft. Among them, Former President George H.W. Bush trained in the building when he was a mere Ensign in the U.S. Navy.

The NASFL Museum hosts several events each year to commemorate the history of the location and to honor heroes. Recently, for example, Senator John McCain came to speak. "It was a full house," notes Bloom. "Young and old alike." But Bloom also emphasizes that while Senator McCain's fame and political service helped make the event a success, they are just as honored by the numerous presentations from other veterans and prisoners of war that the NASFL hosts each year. None of them are more special than the other," says Bloom, though she goes on to mention that Senator McCain "was a very nice person, and spoke of his love for this country."

Another event that brings a lot of excitement each year is the Flight 19 memorial ceremony. "Flight 19 is one of the great aviation mysteries," Bloom emphasizes. The facts behind the event were that Flight 19, a Squadron of 5 Avenger aircraft, with fourteen crewmembers, took off from the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, for a routine training exercise. They headed toward what is now known as the Bermuda Triangle. Though WWII had ended more than 3 months earlier, all the planes and crewmembers disappeared, and nothing has ever been recovered. Later the same day, a rescue seaplane with thirteen crewmen, disappeared in the same area. This was the beginning of the Bermuda Triangle mystery. "Every year on December 5," says Bloom, "the NAS Fort Lauderdale Museum has a memorial ceremony to remember not only Flight 19, but also the 95 servicemen that perished while training at the base."

The NASFL Museum has numerous permanent exhibits worth seeing, even if there is not an event that day. These include the old Link Trainer Flight Simulator, where pilots would learn instrument flying. "Link Trainers are designated as Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarks, by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers," Bloom mentions with pride. There is also the George H.W. Bush room, which shows the living circumstances of an officer when training on the base, an aviation mural, a variety of history related to Flight 19, and a collection of vintage ship and aircraft models, as well as military artifacts.

Anyone with an interest in WWII or the Bermuda Triangle, or wishing to honor the veterans of WWII and beyond, will be well rewarded by a trip to the NASFL Museum. With passionate staff and engaging exhibits and events, it will likely be a highlight of any trip to the region.

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