Explore Our History
Our Current Exhibits
The Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library features exhibits from many of America’s most prominent wars. With the help of our donors, we are able to preserve artifacts from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Vietnam War, Korean War, World War’s I & II, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Our exhibits not only highlight the significance each war had on American history, but also the individual men and women who risked their lives fighting for their country.
The Revolutionary War is what gave way to the America we know of today. Before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the American colonies were under British rule. American colonists began to grow tired of the laws that Parliament were enacting for the colonies, leading the colonists to push back. The Boston tea party and the “shot heard round the world” are well-known events that took place during the Revolutionary War. Leaders in the colonies eventually convened and over time decided to declare independence from Britain.
Featured in our exhibit are depictions of George Washington, Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Significant items on display include strands of George Washington’s hair, a wheel-lock pistol from the 1600s and trade beads found at the site of the Harney Point massacre in Cape Coral.
Beginning in 1861, the Civil War has had major influence on the way the United States operates to this day. The Civil War is the deadliest war in American history, as more than 600,000 American’s from both the North and South were killed. Abraham Lincoln had great influence over the war, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, signaling the end to slavery. The war officially ended in 1865 when confederate Gen. Lee surrendered to union Gen. Grant.
The Civil War exhibit features a mannequin depicting union officer Abraham Myers, for whom Fort Myers is named after. Items include a field desk and derringer belonging to Gen. John Logan and a large desk belonging to Gen. William Flagler.
Purple Heart Featured Exhibit
Our Purple Heart exhibit spotlights the many brave men and women from Florida who have received the medal, showcasing their endless courage and determination to fight for their country. Featured with prominence are Purple Heart recipients from Southwest Florida, including World War II Veteran Roy Leo, whose entire collection of military medals is on display. With pictures of over 300 individuals that have fought for our freedom, this exhibit helps us honor those who came before us and understand that freedom truly isn’t free.
World War 1
World War 1 began in 1914 when Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Soon, other countries joined in the fighting, including Germany, Russia, Great Britain and France, due to treaties they each had with other nations in the war. The war ended in 1918 with the signing of armistice agreements. As a result, Austria-Hungary was separated into several smaller countries. Germany was also punished under the Treaty of Versailles for its involvement.
Our World War 1 exhibit includes a mannequin that depicts Capt. Channing Page, a local war flying ace who is the namesake of the Page Field airport in Fort Myers. Other items featured are a strand of hair from Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron), a McClellan riding saddle, a Navy binnacle, a gun sight for a World War 1 airplane and a leather flight helmet dated 1918.
World War 2
World War 2 consisted of wars in two separate areas: Europe and the Pacific. The war in Europe began in 1939 with Hitler’s German forces invading Poland. After years of invading many countries, Germany was finally forced to surrender in 1945 as the allied forced began to close in.
The war in the Pacific started with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by Japan. The United States immediately declared war and began fighting Japan in other Pacific islands just a few months later. The United States eventually brought the war to a close with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompting Japan to surrender.
Featured in our World War 2 exhibit is Phil Rassmussan, a Fort Myers native who served as a pilot in Pearl Harbor. Items include Japanese machine guns, a Japanese flight helmet and kamikaze head band, a Nazi flag and stones from The Bergof, Hitler’s hideout in Bavaria.
Donate to the Museum
We greatly appreciate any and all donations we receive as they are what allows us to sustain our exhibits. If you would like to donate an artifact, please tell us a little about your item contacting us.
The Korean war began in 1950 when communist North Korea invaded non-communist South Korea. The United States and the United Nations quickly came to aid South Korea and fight against the communist forces. The American forces under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur hit a roadblock when China sent forces to aid North Korea. With America holding off communist forces at the 38th parallel, neither side would budge initially. A peace treaty was signed in 1953, ending the war and returning Korea to a divided state as it was before the war.
Our Korean War exhibit highlights Hector Cafferata of Venice, Fla., a Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipient, both of which we have on display. Sgt. William Taylor, a POW for 901 days, is also featured in this exhibit. Items on display include field telephones, a metal bread box and an instrument panel from an F-86 fighter jet.
The Vietnam War was arguably the most controversial war in American history. In 1958, the communist North Vietnam began its quest to overtake South Vietnam. America supported South Vietnam against the north, with the number of American’s on land in Vietnam reaching over a half a million at one point. Presidents Johnson and Nixon faced criticism as America’s support of the war diminished as time went on. When America finally pulled out of Vietnam more than 10 years later, thousands of our soldiers had already died and South Vietnam inevitably had to surrender to the north.
This exhibit features a mannequin representing Col. Nick Hubbell, an airborne special forces commander. Items include a Huey helicopter seat and gas turbo engine used for trainings, an 80-pound field pack and a bamboo log used for carrying water and fish.
Afghanistan and Iraq Wars
The Afghanistan and Iraq War exhibit highlights America’s involvement in the region after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Beginning under the orders of President George W. Bush, and continuing under the direction of President Obama, the Afghanistan war became the longest fought war in American history.
Our exhibit includes the uniform of Maj. Roy A. Lehto, an American sniper, as well as a Remington 700 sniper rifle, tail flash from an A-10 Warthog and a prayer rug.