Showcasing a Patriotic Chapter in Georgia History: World War II Home Front Museum Coming to Coastal Georgia
Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
The untold story of Coastal Georgia's extraordinary contributions during World War II will be brought to life in an inspiring cultural attraction unlike any other in the nation. Opening in fall 2018, the new World War II Home Front Museum on St. Simons Island will recount how one quiet community was transformed when the United States went to war.
When the U.S. was drawn into World War II in late 1941, Americans marshaled many resources to support the war effort. Around the country, 18 shipyards were dedicated to building Liberty ships, which would serve as workhorses supplying the troops overseas. Additionally, the U.S. Navy established 10 airship bases for operating blimp patrol that would be essential for protecting supply convoys from enemy attacks. Five naval radar training schools also went into full-time operation.
Remarkably, Glynn County was the only county nationwide to operate all three critical types of facilities – a Liberty shipyard, an airship base, and naval radar training facilities.
Developed by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society, the Home Front Museum will detail Glynn County's multifaceted role during the war, including the bold initiatives it took to protect the Atlantic Coast from German submarines, using blimps in aerial reconnaissance; to train naval officers in the latest radar technology; and to build Liberty ships – a total of 85 from 1942 to 1945.
The museum will be housed in the Historic Coast Guard Station on St. Simons Island, a beloved community icon listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1936 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Works program, and transferred to the U.S. War Department in 1941, the Coast Guard building itself is a major artifact of the home front story.
As one of the only permanent exhibits in America related to World War II home front history, this standalone museum is unique, museum officials say, because it is dedicated to documenting the story from a single community's perspective. Using first-hand accounts, artifacts, historical photographs and interactive technology, the museum will preserve and bring to life the personal narratives of men and women from diverse backgrounds who rolled up their sleeves to support those on the battlefield.
"This museum will feature an important Georgia story," said Dr. Jamil Zainaldin, president of Georgia Humanities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Georgia's rich culture. "While the home front activities took place on the coast, people came from all corners of our state to assist in the efforts – from working in the shipyards in Brunswick to volunteering for the Civil Air Patrol, organizing war bond drives, developing Naval air stations, and more. The home front story is one all Georgians can be proud of – it celebrates the patriotism, heroism and enterprise of Georgia's men and women, who contributed profoundly to winning World War II."
One individual with close ties to Glynn County is philanthropist A.D. "Pete" Correll, chairman of Atlanta Equity Investors LLC and the chairman emeritus of Georgia-Pacific LLC. A Brunswick native born in 1941, Correll contributed the lead gift to the $3.3 million capital campaign to fund the new museum. He also donated a photograph of himself as a young boy, being held in his father's arms, at the launching of SS R. Ney McNeely, a Liberty Ship built in the Brunswick yards in 1943.
"The home front story is a major part of Coastal Georgia history that should not be forgotten. Because of the shipyards and other military and civilian activity, Brunswick became a boomtown almost overnight," Correll explained. "Most people experienced World War II because their loved ones went to the war overseas – that was their connection – but the war never actually came to them. However, it came to Glynn County and transformed our community forever."
The museum will also highlight the local legacy of World War II. Bill Jones III, a Coastal Georgia Historical Society board member, Georgia businessman, and third-generation Glynn County resident, said, "The home front efforts had a lasting impact on Glynn County and the state of Georgia, driving manufacturing progress, the shipping industry and economic development for decades to come. Innovation and infrastructure developed during the war led to the launch of new businesses, the expansion of Georgia's ports and the establishment of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center."