Camp Blanding memorializes military training, service

Kingsley Lake boasts a beautiful sunset nearly every night.

Here is a great visit for those who have served in the U.S. military: Camp Blanding.

During World War II, it was an extremely busy Army training center, induction center and also a German prisoner of war compound. At that time, the camp’s population was the fourth largest in Florida. Camp Blanding was and still is one of the largest military training bases in the United States.

The Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park contains a history museum in one of the camp’s restored WWII buildings, tracing the history of the camp and the Florida National Guard. Outdoor exhibits and displays include equipment and Army, Navy and Air Force aircraft from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War.

The museum is open to the public and charges no admission. Donations are accepted. Hours are from noon to 4 p.m. daily. It is closed on major holidays. For more information, call 904-682-3196.

The museum gift shop carries an assortment of books, including the primary histories of the units that trained at Camp Blanding from 1940 to 1945, and an assortment of pins, insignia, patches and medals.

Outside the Memorial Park is a large military memorabilia exhibition area surrounding a lagoon. It contains monuments honoring nine Army Infantry Divisions and the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, all of which trained at Camp Blanding.

The Borne Monument is its latest acquisition. It is a historic highway marker called a borne in French. This original, and memorable Borne, came from Normandy, France, and was presented to the Camp Blanding Museum in an impressive ceremony at St. Lo, Normandy. It has great significance to the Blanding Museum.

Camp Blanding is on the shores of Kingsley Lake, which was formed by a sinkhole. It is an almost perfectly circular lake about 2 miles in diameter. The Camp Blanding Army complex is on the eastern side of Kingsley Lake.

On the grounds, you will find the camp’s Conference Center that serves light meals and the accommodating Finnegan Lodge for modest overnight lodgings. For information, call 904-682-3381.

The Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park is at 5629 SR 16 W. in Starke. For information, call 904-682-3191 or email cbmuseum@aol.com.

From Brevard County, take Interstate 95 north to Exit 318. Then go west on SR 16 through Green Cove Springs and continue for 18 miles to Camp Blanding.

If time permits, visit Green Cove Springs on the St. Johns River. This historic city offers much to see and do for the entire family. Many folks call the city “The Saratoga of the South.”

Start by visiting Spring Park, a beautiful compact park along the St. Johns River. In the park, you can view the active natural spring that boils up from a large fissure more than 20 feet below the surface. For more information, call 904-284-9644.