ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum proudly announces the opening of a new exhibit, “Guardians of the First Coast: Building Readiness for World War II,on August 1, 2020. This exhibition, housed in the Museum’s 1941 Coastal Lookout Building, honors the brave men and women who defended our coast as World War II began.

The exhibit showcases firsthand stories, letters, photographs and videos collected from those who served in World War II.  While local men and women served around the world, the war also came to local shores.  The Hotel Ponce de Leon closed to guests and reopened as the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Training Center, preparing men and women for service around the world.  In addition, beginning in Winter 1942, German U-boats patrolled off the coast of Florida attacking the shipping lanes that provided the Allies with supplies.  Florida citizens including local shrimpers formed boat patrols to report any U-boat sightings in the local waters.

Additional WWII history continues in the restored 1936 garage used by the USCG Beach Patrol.  These armed men vigilantly patrolled in Jeeps to guard miles of coastline against enemy landings.  Today the garage features not only the Tin Pickle, a gedunk (snack bar) featuring unique WWII-inspired snacks, but also additional artifacts and stories about wartime St. Augustine.

These precious artifacts are treasures that tell a story of dedication and sacrifice,” said CAPT Bob Buehn, US Navy Retired, and Chairperson of the Museum Board of Trustees.  He continued, “We are proud to bring this story to the public, and we want to thank the donors who made the exhibit possible. Special thanks are due to the Questers of Ponte Vedra Beach and to the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. We also thank the St. Johns County Veterans Council for sharing stories of service and bravery.”

We have some powerful stories that brings to life the cultural diversity and unique perspectives reflected in local first-hand experiences,” said Kathy Fleming, the Museum Executive Director. The exhibit is offered at no additional charge when paying regular admission. The Museum offers discounts to schools, seniors, and veterans, and admission is always free to active military and first responders.  St. Johns County residents pay once and come all year long.  “We invite everyone to visit and learn about our local WWII history; it is truly eye-opening,” said Fleming.

“Every admission or donation helps our non-profit save more of these veterans’ stories,” added Buehn. “We honor those who served, and there is more to come.”

To donate to this project and help save veterans’ stories please contact Gayle Ballard at: gballard@staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904/829-0745 ext. 208.

For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit www.staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904/829-0745.

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ABOUT THE ST. AUGUSTINE LIGHTHOUSE & MARITIME MUSEUM:

A pivotal navigation tool and unique landmark of St. Augustine for 145 years, the St. Augustine Light Station is host to centuries of history in the Nation’s Oldest Port®. Through interactive exhibits, guided tours and maritime research, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is on a mission to discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the Nation’s Oldest Port® as symbolized by our working lighthouse. We are the parent organization to the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program (LAMP) and an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. (StAugustineLighthouse.org)

ABOUT THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE OF MUSEUMS:

The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. As the ultimate mark of distinction in the museum field, accreditation signifies excellence and credibility. Accreditation helps to ensure the integrity and accessibility of museum collections, and reinforces the education and public service roles of museums and promote good governance practices and ethical behavior. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. (www.aam-us.org).