PBY Memorial on Seaplane Base in Oak Harbor seeking donations

The PBY Memorial Foundation on Seaplane Base is seeking war and military related items to include in the museum.   - Contributed
The PBY Memorial Foundation on Seaplane Base is seeking war and military related items to include in the museum.
— image credit: Contributed

In 1945, Laurin “Bud” Zylstra brought home dozens of American, German and Japanese artifacts upon returning from his service during World War II.

Zylstra, of Oak Harbor, is one of many Whidbey Island residents who donated items that now comprise the PBY Memorial on Seaplane Base in Oak Harbor.

The growing memorial is hoping to continue expanding with the help of additional donations from the Whidbey Island and surrounding communities.

William Stein, foundation vice chairman, said that any war or military-related items, including books, letters, pictures, clothing, aircraft parts or other memorabilia is welcome at the PBY Memorial.

“There’s a place where this stuff should go,” Stein said.

Stein’s said his fear is that people may have priceless memorabilia in their basements, or are considering giving items to charity, without thought to the historical significance of the items.

“We’d like to have it have a home, and for people to come see it,” Stein said.

With rooms dedicated to each major American war since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the memorial offers both a broad and a personal look at how the war affected Oak Harbor.

The memorial’s namesake is the PBY-5A Catalina ­— the crown jewel of the collection which supporters hope to restore. Overlooking Crescent and Oak harbors next to the memorial building, visitors are allowed to climb through the plane and envision what it was like for the Navy in the 1940s.

“Here you get to experience the history of the Navy and the influence of Oak Harbor on the Seaplane Base,” said memorial doussant Frank Gallow. “And people hopefully can cultivate an appreciation of the military and what they had to experience.”

Just a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the first PBY-5A landed at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on Crescent Harbor. One of the Navy’s most versatile aircraft, the PBY-5A served as patrol plane, torpedo plane, dive bomber and search and rescue aircraft.

Established by the PBY Memorial Foundation in September of 1998, the memorial is dedicated to the preservation of military history and the people who served the country. In addition to preserving seaplanes, the foundation would like to continue to capture the legacy of any aircraft that was based at NAS Whidbey.

Prior to the building of the naval base, Oak Harbor was a farming community of 650.

The memorial is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. It is located just inside Seaplane Base at 315 W. Pioneer Way, Oak Harbor. A driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance is required to enter.

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