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Taking a closer look at Tallahassee's WWII Airfield after suspicious device found near Gaines Street

Posted at 7:29 PM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 19:47:39-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It may be hard to recognize now, but where Tallahassee Community College sits was once a busy airfield for the U.S. Army.

Over the course of World War II the Dale Mabry Airfield trained over 8,000 pilots from the United States, Europe, and China those pilots completed over 160,000 take-offs and landings throughout the course the war.

Chuck Wells, who has dedicated over 6 years of his life to learning about the airfield as CEO of the Dale Mabry Airfield Museum, said those flights included bombing runs to Sopchoppy, which according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, housed a 4,480-acre precision bombing range.

"Things happen. A bomb gets hung up, doesn't drop, now they're flying back with a live bomb, they're probably trying to shake it off, find a field where they can drop it, or it just fell off," said Wells.

Wells says accidents have happened-- over 200 people died while the airfield was up and running, and adds, there's a possibility some old WWII artifacts could have yet to be unearthed in Tallahassee.

"Usually when a plane crashed at that high speed, the debris field was over a hundred yards in length, those bombs could have flown anywhere," said Wells.

Wells said planes have crashed in the Apalachicola forest, Lake Talquin, and quite possibly, even Tallahassee's College Town, aligning with the Southeast and Eastern Airfield Runways--where construction crews discovered a WWII bomb in 2016.

While the airfield closed in the mid-1940s Wells says it had a significant impact on Tallahassee then and now.

"When you think about thousands and thousands and thousands of service members living here and their family members visiting them, it literally put Tallahassee on the map," said Wells.