Sunday, June 5, 2011

Florida History: Fort Lauderdale in WWII

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By Jane Feehan

Like elsewhere throughout the nation, Fort Lauderdale was deeply affected by World War II. Many of its experiences were unique to a coastal area with a deep sea port.

The city and neighboring towns were blacked out at night, German submarines conducted operations off the coast, and U.S. military bases, such as the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station, and Foreman Field in Davie were established to train Navy pilots, including Lieutenant George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States. Training schools were set up at hotels along the beach, rendering them no-civilian zones. Air crewmen practiced at machine-gun target areas set up near Sea Ranch Lakes.

Port Everglades was home to a U.S. Navy Section Base that chased subs and recovered torpedoes. It housed highly strategic materials, including fuel for Caribbean operations, and molasses. Molasses, converted into industrial alcohol and then explosives, was stored in large tanks at the port, still visible years later. The U.S Army set up artillery units along the coast, including at Bahia Mar and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

Though many of Fort Lauderdale’s World War II experiences were singular, its reaction to the end of the war was one the entire nation shared. The end began midnight June 5/6, 1944 as the U.S. invaded France. Some local headlines appear here.
Gillis, Susan. Fort Lauderdale: The Venice of America. Charleston: Arcadia (2004).
Weidling, Philip J., Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).

Tags: Fort Lauderdale in WWII, Fort Lauderdale in WW2, Fort Lauderdale history, Port Everglades history

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