MacDill Airforce Base memorializes lost Port Tampa Cemetery

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A memorial service took place Tuesday to memorialize a lost cemetery at MacDill Airforce Base and honor those who are laid to rest there.

Airforce officials unveiled a historical marker on the base Tuesday morning.

The journey to find the lost Port Tampa cemetery started in 2019. Airforce officials hired a contractor who brought in cadaver dogs and ground penetrating radar. There were interviews and surveys conducted. All that led archeologists to a five-acre area near the main runway at MacDill.

No remains were dug up, out of respect, but it’s believed the lost Port Tampa cemetery is on base, according to information in an archeological report. 

“Just the fact that it’s very likely this was the place, that was reason enough for us to pay honor and tribute to what likely happened here,” Commander Ben Jonsson said. “By acknowledging things that have happened in the past we really believe that helps us move forward in a more harmonious way.”

Although it isn’t 100% certain, Hillsborough County judge Lisa Campbell says she has an ancestor buried there.

“We wanted to be able to honor and respect our grandparents whose child is certainly within 50 yards of this marker, and to honor those who I’m sure their lives are not dissimilar from ours,” Campbell said.

MacDill Airforce Base will also place a historical marker at the Dale Mabry gate.

In February 2020, an archaeological team from New South Associates surveyed approximately five acres of land located near the Visitors Center.

The team consisted of two archaeologists, two cadaver dogs and two K-9 handlers.

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