It’s often overlooked that 75 years ago this month, war raged right off the coast of Florida. For many across the US “the home front” in World War II represented industrial work and rallying behind the deployment of the military abroad. Here in Florida it represented a whole lot more. Not only did we have many soldiers deployed to Florida, a move that ultimately transformed the state, but we had the closest thing to an actual battle front in North America right off our shores. June 1942 was a pivotal month in one of the hidden fronts in the war.
The war made Florida into a modern state transitioning a sleepy backwater a highly rural Deep South state into the region’s most urban and diverse state by 1960. Florida’s location and availability of training areas made it an ideal place to station troops and train those who were going off to fight in Europe. Most of the training areas for the Pacific were in the western states, but significantly General “Vinager” Joe Stilwell one of the highest ranking US generals was a Florida native, having been born in Palatka.
The Florida Division of Libraries and Information Service has a great World War II section to peruse and for those of you who live near Tallahassee (or visit during Legislative Session), visiting the Museum of Florida History and seeing the World War II exhibit is a must.
But even more interesting perhaps is the U-boat war that raged off Florida’s coast. Several good resources are linked from this page at Visit Florida’s homepage and a very good narrative here as well.