The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum received the tail section of a World War II-era plane that washed up along South Ponte Vedra Beach during the recent nor’easter. The initial findings suggest that the part came from a F4F Wildcat, an aircraft produced by the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation mostly based on aircraft carriers. The section includes a tail hook suggesting it was carrier-based. As the plane came in for a landing, the tail hook would catch on the arresting cable allowing the plane to come to a full stop. Unfortunately, many of the training flights off the coast of Jacksonville ended in planes landing in the ocean due to electrical problems, engine problems and other faults with the planes.
Before any effort at conservation can be made, the Museum must get the approval of the United States Navy. The Conservation team at the Museum will take photographs and look for markings that will confirm whether the tail cone came from a F4F Wildcat. The team must also determine the best process to conserve the aluminum cone as it is not a very durable metal.
With the state-of-the-art Charles Cox Conservation Lab on site, the Museum is poised to help in the preservation of this important artifact. Executive Director Kathy Fleming added, “We are really proud to be able to save this rare piece of the history of local heroes. Our experts in underwater archaeology and museum education will help save it and share this story with future generations.” The nonprofit Museum provides a valuable resource through its commitment to conserving artifacts but also preserving the stories of the history of our community.
With the Museum’s recent addition of a World War II exhibit, “Guardians of the First Coast: Building Readiness for World War II,” the discovery of this piece of World War II history comes at an ideal time. The Museum continues to work on several projects that record the history of North Florida during World War II. During the war, men and women came to St. Augustine to train for warfare on the European and Pacific fronts. In addition, the St. Augustine Light Station came under the supervision of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) which in turn came under the Department of the Navy during the war. The exhibit tells the story of the brave men and women who served during the war through photographs, artifacts and video.
For more details about the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, visit staugustinelighthouse.org or call 904-829-0745. Stay updated on social media at facebook.com/staugustinelighthouse and on Instagram.com/stauglighthouse.