Florida Word War II museum fights for survival

Carrabelle, a town in Franklin County, Florida, is home to the Camp Gordon Johnson Museum. After moving on several occasions, its current home isn’t adequate for its needs, nor is it drawing the visitor numbers needed for its survival.

The museum has been open for 16 years, housing all manner of artefacts from World War II, as well as two theatres showing World War II films and educational documentaries. Its current site is what used to be the Carrabelle School that was built in 1972. Unfortunately, it’s not being well-maintained with the roof leaking and the heating and cooling system only being used during hours of operation. The staff is constantly trying to minimise the impact of mold and mildew on its collection. The location of the school is also off the main tourist route, being six roads away from the main high street.

The circumstances has led the museum’s management team to find a new home, which they purchased back in 2008. The location is perfect being that it’s opposite Carrabelle Beach public park and next to a camp site. It’s a poignant spot since the beach is right where American troops trained for the D-Day invasion.

While the site is owned by the museum, it has not been able to raise enough funds to build its new facility. It has managed to raise a total of $150,000, but needs another $250,000.

Local authorities have expressed concern and interest in helping the museum. Currently the management team are set to present their plan to Franklin County Tourist Development Council, which will then decide whether it can donate funds to the new building, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Tony Minichiello, president of the museum’s operations, has said that if the funding is not found, the museum will have to close in two years time.

During the war, soldiers trained for coastal landings from 1941 to 1946. The camp trained more than 30,000 US soldiers. An annual event has been taking place since 1995 for the soldiers who trained at the camp.

The museum’s artefacts range from World War II uniforms, pictures, weapons, military flags and banners, books, US and German magazines, letters, accessories, pins and badges. They have also recreated some war-era facilities including a medical room, a mail room, the barracks, and even a 1940s-era living room.

The museum continues to hold fundraising events such as the annual veterans’ reunion and an annual golf competition. The museum is open six days a week in the afternoons. Donations are welcomed.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE