World War II
Northwest Florida During World War II
World War II brought major changes and disruption to the entire United States of America. Northwest Florida was especially impacted by the construction of military bases and monuments, and the change of industry due to the war.
Eglin Air Force Base
When the U.S. Army Air Corps from Maxwell Alabama started searching for a site for an air force base in 1933, the area near Valparaiso was perfectly suited for the task. 164 of the 3,000 buildings on base were developed during World War II in an attempt to aid in the war effort. The main contribution of Eglin Air Force Base in World War II was to serve as a field to research and experiment air warfare. Because of Eglin Air Force Base’s proximity to the water, many of the operations were designed to have practice in landing and taking off of air craft carriers. Specifically, the Doolittle B-25 crews from the 89th Reconnaissance Squadron and 17th Bombardment Group practiced maneuvering with air craft carriers prior to the raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. Other aircraft, such as the B-17, and the B-29, were tested at Eglin Air Force Base during World War II. By 1941, the Eglin Air Force Base became a major research and development center. For example, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory was built during World War II to test armaments in different climates. In addition, the German V-1 rockets wSere reverse-engineered at Eglin Air Force Base. Later in the war, around 1945, Eglin also held 300 German prisoners of war (POWs), and these POWs were employed to do manual labor at the base. The Eglin-Hurlburt Field Airdrome extension of the Eglin Air Force Base was built in 1941 to be the headquarters of the Electronic Section of Air Proving Ground Command. In addition to serving as a ground command, Eglin-Hurlburt was used to train for radar countermeasures.2
The Blue Angels
At the end of WWII, one Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ordered the formation of a flight demonstration team in order to keep and increase public interest in naval aviation. Their first flight was on June 15th, 1946, at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Jacksonville Florida with the original flight leader Lieutenant Commander Roy M. “Butch” Voris flying a Grumman F6F Hellcat. The name “The Blue Angels” came about in July of 1946 at a show in Omaha, Nebraska from an advertisement in the New York Times for a night club and they developed their now famous diamond formation in August of 1946. Since their creation, they’ve flown for than 427 million fans.
The naval air station is called “the Cradle of Naval Aviation” and “Annapolis of The Air”. NAS Pensacola was constructed in 1826. The area was previously destroyed by the confederacy during the civil war. The navy yard was closed in 1911. In 1914 the Aeronautic center was opened on the abandon yard. The government used the yard as a training facility during World War I. By the end of the war, one thousand seaplanes and hydroplanes pilots were trained.
The Barrancas National Cemetery
Barrancas National Cemetery is placed in the area owned by the Naval Air Station eight miles southwest of Pensacola, Fl. The cemetery encompasses over 100 acres of land, although only 45 acres are developed. It began as a small cemetery for those who worked at the U.S. Navy Yard located in Pensacola, but with the onset of the civil war, it was expanded to include the remains of soldiers killed in action around the area. The site was designated “Barrancas National Cemetery” in 1868, though it was maintained in conjuncture with a marine hospital near Fort Barrancas in 1838. As of 1869, Gen. Lorenzo Thomas, inspector of national cemeteries at the time, reported that around 1,310 burials had been made in the cemetery. A monument was erected in 1884 to eight comrades who died in a Yellow Fever epidemic in during August and September of 1883.
Northwest Florida, and most of Florida in general, was not very heavily populated before the advent of World War II. Since there was a low population, there was a large amount of vacant land available for military establishments. Due to the sudden influx of military personnel, many hotels were overcrowded by soldiers, and some hotels were even used as makeshift hospitals. In addition, construction companies provided an economic stimulus for Pensacola that employed many workers that were left disenfranchised by the Great Depression. Pensacola specifically was given a war contract that helped build industry. World War II boosted the industry in Northwest Florida that was injured in the Great Depression.
Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms. “Eglin Field Historic District.” Accessed 30 August 2016. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/aviation/egl.htm “Barrancas National Cemetery” CNIC Naval Air Station Pensacola, accessed 11 September 2016 http://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrse/installations/nas_pensacola/about/history/barrancas_national_cemetery.html Barrancas National Cemetery; Pensacola, Florida” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed 11 September 2016 https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/Florida/Barrancas_National_Cemetery.html Doolittle Tokyo Raiders to receive Congressional Gold Medal. 1942. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson. Exploring Florida. “Florida During World War II.” Accessed August 31 2016. http://fcit.usf.edu/florida/lessons/ww_ii/ww_ii1.htm Florida’s World War II Memorial. “NAS Pensacola.” Accessed 27 September 2016. http://www.museumoffloridahistory.com/exhibits/permanent/wwii/sites.cfm?PR_ID=143 Florida World War II Heritage Trail. “Okaloosa County.” pg. 8-9. Accessed 30 August 2016. http://dos.myflorida.com/media/32351/worldwariiheritagetrail.pdf Hanna, Jason, Newsome, John, Blackwell, Victor, Crawford, Jamie, and Lendon, Brad. Location of Eglin Air Force Base. Digital image. CNN. 11 March 2015. Accessed 11 September 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/11/us/florida-army-helicopter/index.html “The Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron: The Blue Angels,” 11 March 2003, Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, http://www.navy.mil/navydata/aircraft/b-angels/blues.html (Accessed 28 September 2016 "Naval Air Station Pensacola – A Pictorial History." Warbirds News. 22 February 2014. Accessed 27 September 2016. http://www.warbirdsnews.com/author/editor. Plueger, Josh. Photograph. Offutt Air Force Base, United States Air Force. 2009 Defenders of Freedom Open House and Air Show 29-30 August 2009. http://www.offutt.af.mil/News/tabid/6037/Article/312217/2009-defenders-of-freedom-open-house-and-air-show.aspx Richardson, Walter Leroy. NAS Pensacola Living Quarters. Digital image. WUWF: NPR for Florida’s Great Northwest. 17 January 2014. Accessed 11 September 2016. http://wuwf.org/post/nas-pensacola-turns-100 Wilson, Richard. Entrance Sign to the Eglin Air Force Base. Digital image. CoBases-US Military Bases. n.d. Accessed 11 September 2016. http://www.cobases.com/florida/eglin-air-force-base/