In recognition of the state’s contributions abroad and at home, Florida installed a World War II Memorial in Tallahassee more than 20 years ago, and unveiled an exhibition commemorating how the state and its citizens participated in the conflict.
In 2004, the group also published a guide to sites around Florida that relate to the state’s role in the war effort. It is in its fourth printing.
“Florida World War II Heritage Trail” was part of a larger project with the Florida Department of State, the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs and the Florida Department of Education.
In 1999, then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law Florida’s World War II Memorial, creating a living memorial that included the Museum of Florida History WWII exhibit, a permanent monument outside the RA Gray building, the heritage trail guide, and a website and resources for teachers.
“Florida Remembers World War II: The Museum of Florida History” traveled to Pensacola, Miami and Orlando before becoming permanently installed at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
“Florida residents, their friends and families can visit many of the sites highlighted in the heritage trail guide without having to drive too far from home,” says Mark Ard with the Florida Department of State. “The guide highlights more than 150 WWII-related sites across the state—from airfields and memorials to museums and cemeteries.
“With 2021 marking the 80th anniversary of America’s entry into WWII on both the Pacific and European fronts, we expect more people will want to engage in the history of the conflict. This is a perfect time to learn more about how Florida and Floridians contributed.”
Organized by regions, the guide is available at https://bit.ly/3DtTTvb.
Here are edited excerpts from the book.
- Camp Gordon Johnston, U.S. Highway 98, Carrabelle. One of the most important military bases in Florida during World
War II, the camp where thousands of soldiers trained in amphibious operations opened in 1942. Although the camp officially closed in 1946, a Florida Historical Marker recognizes those who served there. A museum at 302 Marin St. maintains artifacts, photos and oral histories.
- Four Freedoms Monument, corner of Range and Base Streets, Madison. A Florida Historical Marker tells the story of Army Air Corps Capt. Colin P. Kelly Jr.—a World War II hero and Madison native killed during a bombing mission against Japanese shipping. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
- Pinellas County Historical Museum, 11909 125th St. North, Largo. As part of the living history Heritage Village, the museum’s collections highlight the county’s early history, including information about Donald Roebling, who invented the Alligator amphibious vehicle used in the Pacific. www.pinellascountyhistoricalsociety.org, 727-582-2123.
- Navy SEAL Museum, 3300 North AlA, Fort Pierce. Founded in 1985 where the underwater demolition team trained beginning in 1943, the museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Navy Frogmen and SEALs. Displays include specialized patrol craft, underwater vehicles, space capsules, a Seawolf helicopter, a captured gunboat, a collection of diving gear, weapons, parachutes, uniforms, photographs and original memorabilia from WWII to the 1980s.
- Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge, 550 Wakulla Park Drive, Wakulla Springs. Listed on the National Register in 1993, the former retreat for relatives of Alfred duPont was used as family housing for officers at Camp Gordon Johnson and Dale Mabry Field—including Gen. Omar Bradley’s wife. Now known as Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, it served as the setting for the Academy Award-winning film “Amphibious Fighters.”
- Tampa SS American Victory, 705 Channelside Drive, Tampa. One of 414 Victory ships built during World War II, the SS American—used to ship Allied war material—serves as a dynamic museum and memorial that was listed on the National Register in 2002. The bridge includes WWII equipment.
- Iwo Jima Memorial, Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, Southeast 23rd Terrace, Cape Coral. Created by Felix W. de Weldon—sculptor of the original Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.—this one-third-scale replica is one of three in existence.
- Little White House, 111 Front St., Key West. Three years after President Harry S. Truman oversaw the surrenders of Germany and Japan, he remodeled a former home on the U.S. Navy Base in Key West to use as a vacation spot. Listed on the National Register in 1974, it is Florida’s only presidential museum. Truman visited there 175 times between 1946 and 1952. www.trumanlittlewhitehouse.com, 786-294-7277.