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Air cadets at the Lodwick School of Aeronautics

The City of Lakeland has a long and proud connection to the military and aviation. Many people are aware of the city's Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, the modern municipally owned facility. The airport is nationally and internationally known as the home of the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, that annual celebration of aviation and aircraft that takes place every spring.

Few people today, however, are aware that Lakeland Linder had a previous incarnation as Lakeland Army Air Field. It was home to a variety of squadrons of B-17's B-24's, and P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft during World War II. Fewer people still are aware that Tiger Town, the current spring training home of the Detroit Tigers, once bustled with American and British cadets eager to learn the basics of flying to serve in their respective air forces in World War II. Even fewer are aware that Lakeland was home to a male and female pair of flyers who, in 1927 made a much publicized, if ultimately unsuccessful, attempt at a transatlantic flight only months after Charles Lindbergh's successful flight. Almost no one members that the city's first airport, Haldeman-Elder Field, located on the Bartow Highway at Combee road, was named after the intrepid pair.

The collections in this category document to a small degree Lakeland's military and aviation history. The most significant and comprehensive of these collections is the Albert Lodwick Papers, RG2700. Lodwick was a long time aviation executive who bought a small Nebraska flight training school and moved its operations to Lakeland in 1940. He leased the Lakeland Municipal Airport (now Tiger Town) and established the Lakeland (later Lodwick) School of Aeronautics to train British and American flyers for service in World War II. The Lodwick Papers document the activities of the school, as well as Lodwick's previous and subsequent careers in the aviation industry, including his close relationship with Howard Hughes in the late 1930's.

The Bartow Air Base Collection, RG2755 and the Drane Field Collection, RG2800, document to a small degree the activities at two military bases in the Lakeland area during World War II. The Sun 'n Fun Fly-In Collection, RG2875, contains programs, badges, buttons, posters, brochures,and photographs documenting the annual "fly-in" to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Lakeland's connection with the military dates to the Spanish-American War. In 1898, when Lakeland was a small railroad town of 1000 people, it was inundated for three months with 9,000 soldiers awaiting transport to Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War. The Spanish-American War Collection, RG1100, documents this early period of Lakeland's history in correspondence, photographs, published articles, muster rolls, reunion books and programs, and a hat, mess kit and gloves used soldiers stationed in Lakeland in 1898.