A plaque honoring Floridians who died in World War II flying for British forces was presented Tuesday to the Winter Haven Municipal Airport.
The plaque was made of aluminum from a Halifax bomber that was recovered from the Belgium swamp where it crashed during World War II. The Floridians volunteered to serve with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Air Force before the United States entered the war.
“It’s pretty neat — the story behind it and the fact that we were chosen,” Mayor Brad Dantzler said. “Winter Haven is honored to have this plaque in honor of all the Florida pilots who died.”
The four-engine bomber the plaque is made from is one of many recovered by the Halifax 57 Rescue team, which works to recover and preserve the planes, and pay tribute to RCAF and RAF bomber crews. It was one of the principal heavy bombers flown by British forces during the war. The others were the Lancaster and the Stirling.
Karl Kjarsgaard, director of Halifax 57 Rescue and Bomber Command Museum of Canada, said 8,860 Americans volunteered in the RCAF. Of those, 829 were killed — 13 of whom were from Florida. The plaque bears their names.
Kjarsgaard chose the Winter Haven Municipal Airport to receive the plaque in honor of the state because the pilots trained in areas between Winter Haven and Lakeland. The plaque is on permanent display inside the terminal building. The organization plans to put a plaque in each state.