NASW History

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For a more extensive history of NAS Wildwood please explore the links below, visit NASW Aviation Museum, or buy the NAS Wildwood book in our gift shop!

 

As the United States officially entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, there became a greater need for air combat training facilities. On April 1, 1943 the US commissioned a naval aviation training facility, originally named Naval Air Station (NAS) Rio Grande. Due to mail and telephone confusion with Rio Grande, Texas, the station was renamed two months later to NAS Wildwood. The site served as an active dive-bomber squadron training facility throughout the war, until it was decommissioned by the Navy in 1945. Aircraft stationed at NAS Wildwood included TBM Avengers, Douglas Dauntlesses, Vought Corsairs and Curtiss Helldivers. Dive-bomber training was particularly dangerous: in NAS Wildwood’s two years of operation, there were 194 reported accidents, including 42 known deaths. Base activity peaked in October 1944 with 16,994 takeoffs and landings and accommodated as many as 200 planes.

After the station’s closure, 79 of the 126 original buildings were sold and moved off site. The government gave the remainder of the buildings to Cape May County. Throughout the years, many of the buildings were tore down and replaced by modern structures. Only 12 of the original buildings remain standing today. Hangar #1, the largest of the original remaining buildings, had various tenants in the years following the war but was eventually abandoned. In June 1997, the NAS Wildwood Foundation was formed and purchased Hangar #1 at the Cape May Airport. The 92,000 square-foot all-wooden structure was in a state of disrepair and required extensive renovation. Under the stewardship of NAS Wildwood Foundation, the hangar was listed on the New Jersey State & National Registers of Historic Places at a level of National Significance. With the help of grant funding and private donations, the NAS Wildwood Foundation was able to make extensive repairs and transform Hangar #1 into NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum.

Today, NASW Aviation Museum boasts over 26 aircraft displays as well as military memorabilia, engines, photographs, interactive exhibits and more!

NAS Wildwood Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to restore Hangar #1 at the Cape May Airport, educate the public on aviation and WWII history, and honor the forty-two airmen who perished while training at NAS Wildwood during World War II.


More History…

NASW Aviation Museum

500 Forrestal Road
Cape May Airport
Rio Grande, NJ 08242
(609) 886-8787

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