DAR, Military Museum join to unveil new Chapman Field historic marker

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DAR, Military Museum join to unveil new Chapman Field historic marker
Attendees unveil historic marker at Chapman Field Park.
(Photo credit: Ryan Holloway, Miami-Dade County)

Historic markers commemorating the history of Chapman Field were erected recently, and a marker, located in Miami-Dade County’s Chapman Field Park, was unveiled during a well-attended ceremony held on Apr. 22.

The brainchild of Dr. Anthony Atwood, executive director of the Miami-Dade Military Museum, the historical markers were sponsored by the Coral Gables Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Miami-Dade Military Museum and Village of Pinecrest.

After a two-year process of application to the Florida Department of State, fundraising, and approvals, two historic markers are now posted across the road from the Chapman Field Park ballfield inside the park, and one on the west side of Old Culter Road in Pinecrest. The two-sided plaques explain the history behind Chapman Field being named for the first American pilot to die fighting in World War I, and the subsequent use of the airfield as a training facility in both WWI and WWII. The site trained male pilots (including iconic author F. Scott Fitzgerald) and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“This could not have been accomplished without the DAR. They are outstanding patriots and were instrumental in bringing to life the Chapman Field Park historic marker,” Dr. Atwood said. “The DAR raised the money, worked closely on the research and text of the marker, were relentless in liaising with local government, were there for the State Historic Board deliberations, and turned out in force for the unveiling. This world is a better place thanks to this organization.”

Today the area is the site of the Miami-Dade County Chapman Field Park which houses not only ballfields but also a canoe/kayak launch and dog park while the USDA Agricultural Research Service office is in a gated area at the entry of the park.

“Historic preservation is one of our core pillars of the DAR, along with honoring our service members through patriotism and educating future generations, stated Dana Pezoldt, State Historic Preservation chair, Daughters of the American Revolution Coral Gables Chapter, and board member of the Miami-Military Museum. “This is why getting these markers in place was such an important project and partnership for our chapter.”

Victor Emmanuel Chapman, whose mother was French, was a student and athlete at Harvard before he volunteered to be a pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille in France and subsequently was shot down in an early air fight in 1916. Not long after his death, the U.S. Army Air Service established the Chapman Army Airfield, named in his honor, as an aviation training facility that was in use until the end of WWII. Victor Emmanuel Chapman also was a direct descendant of the first Supreme Court Justice of the United States, John Jay.

Joe Cornely, assistant director of Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation, was emcee for the unveiling, with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava explaining the significance of the park, followed by former U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Rep Ros-Lehtinen was instrumental in getting the WASPs not only recognized as veterans but also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and contribution to our country. Both leaders unveiled and read the historical markers.

The event also was attended by many members of the Coral Gables Chapter DAR, board members and friends of the Military Museum, and local dignitaries including Raphaёl Trapp, Consul-General of France in Miami; former Florida State Sen. Dexter Lehtinen; former Mayor of Coral Gables Dorothy Thomson, and vice chair of the Village of Pinecrest Council Shannon del Pardo. Kim Zeman, first vice tegent of the Florida State Society DAR also was on hand representing over 11,000 DAR members across the State in applauding this event.




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