Right in our back yard is a bit of World War II history. In South Dade, right near MetroZoo, you might have seen a big cement tower with a radio tower on top. That was a door frame from a HUGE blimp hanger. This is one of the last remaining structures of the Richmond Naval Air Station. This base was used in WWII for the air ships (blimps) that scanned our coastline for German subs. I know people don't usually think of Miami when it comes to the war, but our ships were torpedoed by German U-boats within sight of Miami. It must have been a scary time.
The radio tower on top is owned by Miami-Dade County and is used for the County's EDACS radio system.
Here are some web sites about the history of this site:
And this site is about the creation of a museum in Building 25 at the base:
Please try to support this effort in any way you can. My goal is to organize hams to set up a radio room in the museum. It would be made up of radios from the WWII era and a recording of actual radio transmission from the war. This is one of the last World War II structures left in Miami. I think it's important to preserve it. If you have time, WWII era radio equipment, or even memories of this base, we could use your help.
Here's what the building looked like during the war:
If this sounds interesting, please contact me.
To put this into perspective, this is a picture of the hangers right after the hurricane and fire. See the ends that are still standing? The remaining tower is one side of one of these doors. Really gives you some idea of how big the hangers were.
The inside view of the hanger
Gold Coast Railroad Museum on the left of the tower
In this building was a boiler that was used to generate the steam to open and close the doors.
The base of the tower.
A newer building was built across the slot where the door were stored. This building has a generator and radio equipment today.
Here is a 1994 aerial photo of the blimp hanger It's the rectangle in the lower left quadrant of this image. Look for the shadow caused by the remaining tower.
I think this shows building 25. Maybe a bit up and to the right from center. The remaining tower is just at the bottom edge of the image. I hope to get on the base to check closer.
This one is up a few levels. It shows MetroZoo to the South, the Blimp base to above it, and the Coast Guard (CIA?) radio facility to the East. The Turnpike runs North-South on the right.
Mention of this base and project stirred
up some memories in the South Florida Hams Mailing list:
As some of you know, as sort of a hobby, I've been collecting images and items related to the communication history of South Florida. From an article that ran in the Herald lately, I just found out about a project that could be related. I suspect some of you here might be interested in this project.
Some of us are too young to remember first hand, but South Florida actually had some WWII history take place here. As you've driven into MetroZoo, you might have noticed a big white cement tower on the other side of the parking lot. This was the door frame of a huge wooden hanger that protected blimps during WWII. These blimps were escorts for convoys off the East coast of the US. They were on the watch for German subs, right off our coast. No one thinks about the fact that this war was fought within sight of Miami. There's actually a pretty good chance that some U boats landed at night and Germans mingled with Miamians.
Please take a look at this web site.
At a minimum, check out the old photos of the site just so you know there's a real connection here to our history. Take a look to see if you can help out this group with their efforts to preserve the last standing building on the base.
If any of you happened to have served at the base, or at least have memories of it, let us know your story.
Until I was 12, I lived in Green Hills, a development East of the base. While technically we were trespassing, there were many days spent there by us locals. We would snoop around in the trenches, look through the long abandoned buildings, even the trash dumps. We would have our fun until we saw a jeep headed our way, then we would make a run for the exit. I don't know how many times teachers at Miami Heights Elementary had to 'disarm' us when we brought ammunition to school. Yes, it was pretty common to find unfired rounds there. One of my favorites finds was a battery used to trigger explosives. I don't know how many years later it still lit a 7 watt 120 v light. I still have some radio service manuals from the 1920s. Sort of the Sams Photofacts of the day.
Please take a look at the web site, then share any stories you have about the place. See if you can help this group with their cause. If we lose this building, this might be the last link we have to WWII in Miami. If things go well, maybe we hams can contribute equipment to a 'radio room' within the Museum. I'm sure we can find some WWII era radio gear to display.
Paul N.: This message is going to 125 ham radio operators in South Florida. I hope we can generate some interest in your project.
I remember, as a kid, watching that blimp base burn during the waning part of the hurricane that destroyed it. I also remember watching the burning transports, etc, off Miami Beach that were torpedoed by the German subs, and, yes, we were all frightened.
Isn't there a blimp hangar at Opalocka airport??
Some other interesting war time stuff..
There are tunnels linking some of the buildings in downtown. it was a cold war thing.
Near west Miami jr high there is a house that still has the bomb shelter in the back yard. it seems to be kept up and is visible as you drive past the house.
on top of the Riviera theatre there used to be a hemi powered air raid siren. it was there till almost the end of 2000. there was talk of powering it up as an intro to the millennium... guess someone up top heard about this and had it removed.
[The topic moves to a hanger at the Opa Locka airport]
It was my understanding that the hangars at Opa Locka once housed the
balloons used to prevent low-level flight intrusion (I forget the military
term). Opa Locka had a great deal of military equipment during WWII and
One of our funny Field Day stories is about the year the military made an
error and instead of sending out a small generator to the blimp base on Watson
Island they sent out a 500 KVA on a tractor trailer truck with a second truck
carrying the gas, stopped traffic on the County (now MacArthur) Causeway while
they positioned all the equipment. We were running three 30W rigs!!! Needless to
say the regulator did not work and all the WOWING blew out lights &
rigs...so W4DTJ stood on the truck all through Field Day watching the meters so
that he could yell for us to shut down whenever the voltage started to climb!!!
I was busy wading in Government Cut picking out log sheets that were blown
off the operating tables during the strong summer gusts!! Had to tie the tents
to car bumpers because we could not drive stakes into the rock out there. When
tired folks decided to go home during the night they would forget to untie the
tents....Oh those were the days!!!
When Building 25 is renovated, it would be great to find the room that had been used for radio communication with the air ships. We could install radio equipment that was used during that period. Working or not, as long as we make the room look as it did during WWII. I'm quite sure we can find WWII era equipment from our collections, or from estate sales. For effect, we could hide a computer playing back radio conversations over a speaker in the radios. Sort of like the guys did for that art exhibit a couple years ago. I'm sure we could find some authentic tapes of radio communications, or work with veterans to do a script we would carry out over HF and record. Anything to take people back to that time in our history. Sounds silly, but I'm even picturing an old brass oscillating fan on the wall :)
We could do a field day or other contest from there and issue some commemorative QSL cards.
I don't think it will ever be practical to have a radio museum here in Miami.
But it would be nice to work together on a radio room in a Miami War museum.
We're talking about a few weekend work parties and donations of old radio
equipment. This is clearly something that's attainable. And it would be fun to
see the reactions to it as people go through the building.
We would like to invite you to visit our website, and consider placing a link on your page. We believe that some of the content from our website, would compliment that which you have already composed. Although our content focuses primarily on NAS Tillamook, NAS Richmond is a sister base, which would give your visitors a better understanding of what she was like, as well as her purpose.
You can find our website at:
We wish to thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Other related links: