World War II Homefront: Military Training in Florida

Information for Teachers

Favorable weather and ample land made Florida one of the primary areas selected for military base construction during World War II. Between 1941 and 1945, more than 200 military installations were built or expanded in Florida, which required 1.2 million acres of land and cost $306 million.

Florida’s beaches and rivers helped prepare troops for amphibious landings and jungle combat. The military used Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee, to conduct training for troops expected to see combat in the wetlands and jungles of Southeast Asia. This film clip shows soldiers wading into the water, climbing trees, and learning to operate and handle their equipment while partially submerged in water.

Large military bases such as Camp Blanding, near Starke, attracted not only thousands of servicemen and their families, but also brought hoards of workers to the state in search of employment. At its peak, during construction, Camp Blanding employed more than 22,000 civilian workers.

The pace of construction at sites like Camp Blanding created severe housing problems in nearby communities. While building barracks that later housed troops, workers slept in their cars, on the floors of local businesses and restaurants, and pitched tents in nearby forests. Cramped living conditions also led to food shortages and health concerns.

Local merchants and other businesses that catered to workers and soldiers benefited economically from large military bases. However, some community members protested when the visitors overwhelmed local infrastructure, or engaged in undesirable activities.

When finished, Camp Blanding was so massive that the personnel housed there comprised the fourth largest city in Florida during World War II at 55,000 inhabitants. Also housed at the base were approximately 4,000 German prisoners of war (POWs).

Defense employers often refused to hire African-American workers in the early days of the war. Eventually, as the demands of the war increased, African-Americans obtained greater access to defense-related jobs and enlisted in the military in substantial numbers. The presence of African-American soldiers strained already tense race relations in several Florida communities. African-Americans stationed at Camp Gordon Johnson near Carrabelle reported that Nazi POWs received better treatment than black troops.

The persistence of discrimination and Jim Crow-era segregation laws fueled the desire among many African-Americans to use the war as a means of achieving victory over both fascism abroad and racism at home, referred to as the “Double V” campaign.

 

Documents

Use to Illustrate:

  • The impact of World War II on the homefront.
  • The environmental conditions that make Florida well suited for military training.
  • The way the military used different environments (beach, rivers, swamps, etc.) to help train soldiers for combat.

Relevant NGSSS

  • SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
  • SS.4.A.7.3: Identify Florida's role in World War II.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, warfare near Florida’s shores and training bases in Florida (Miami, Tampa, Tallahassee, etc.), spying near the coast, Mosquito Fleet.

  • SS.912.A.6.1: Examine causes, course, and consequences of World War II on the United States and the world.
  • SS.912.A.6.15: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as they relate to United States history.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, Mosquito Fleet, “Double V Campaign”, construction of military bases and WWII training centers, 1959 Cuban coup and its impact on Florida, development of the space program and NASA.

  • SS.912.A.6.4: Examine efforts to expand or contract rights for various populations during World War II.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, women, African-Americans, German Americans, Japanese Americans and their internment, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Italian Americans.

  • SS.912.A.6.5: Explain the impact of World War II on domestic government policy.

    Examples may include, but are not limited to, rationing, national security, civil rights, increased job opportunities for African-Americans, women, Jews, and other refugees.

Florida Standards

  • LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • LAFS.910.RH.3.9: Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.2.5: Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.