Saving the Wildwood Mace: An Old Warbird Goes to the Indiana Military Museum
The Wildwood Mace, now called Miss L, on display for Memorial Day 2012.
Wildwood Mace had to go
Last year, I was fortunate enough to meet with some other "vintage airmen" to help rescue an old veteran of the Cold War, an early Martin Mace cruise missile, it had stood guard in front of the American Legion Post in Wildwood, Florida, since 1990 but now had to be removed. I am involved with an online group called the TAC (Tactical Air Command) Missileers, a group of former Air Force personnel who had worked with either the Mace or its predecessor, the Matador. These were early cruise missiles with a range of 1,400 or 700 miles, respectively, and each carried a nuclear bomb. Due to their relatively short range, we had them in launch bays in Okinawa and Germany, along with additional mobile-launch models in Germany. These were powerful deterrents from the late 50's into the early 70's; however, they were not as well known as the ICBM's (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) in their underground silos in several states in the upper Midwest, supported by their SAC (Strategic Air Command) Missileers. We all proudly wear the Missileer Badge (often called the Pocket Rocket) on the left breast pocket of the uniform.
A member of the TAC Missileers had learned about the need to remove the old warbird and had made contact with the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana. The museum was eager to add the Mace to their facilty and would perform a significant restoration prior to putting it on display...they just needed to get it to Vincennes. The call went out from the TAC Missilleer website to interested former missile crew members in the area who might be able to pitch in. In March of 2010 a group of us (from Jacksonville to Ft. Myers) gathered around the old Mace in Wildwood and began setting the plan in motion to get it off the display mount, remove the wings and tail section, build shipping cradles and get it all loaded on a flatbed for it's journey to Indiana. Measurements were taken, specialized tools were located, and, although arrangements were in place for a discounted ride on a dead-heading semi back to Indiana, further contacts were made and the Indiana Air National Guard sent a flatbed semi down to haul it back to its new home.
In April, the group (give or take a few of the originals) went on site to disassemble and pack the Mace for shipment. The escort vehicle behind kept a running photo log of the journey and the photos were uploaded to the TAC Missileer website as well as some newer photos of the Mace as it is going thru it's renovation in preparation for display. Turns out, that some of the TAC Missileers, who happen to live in that general area, are volunteering some time to help with the restoration at the museum.
TAC Missileers Website
- TAC Missileers
USAF Mace / Matador Veterans