NAS Fort Lauderdale during WWII
January 15, 2011
By Jonathan D. Marcus
Forum Publishing Group
The gallery features display panels with graphics, diagrams, photographs and display cases with uniforms, artifacts and memorabilia. Accompanying text provides details and background information. Panels describe the military training that occurred in the area. Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, located where Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is now, was a training base for bomber pilots, and other naval schools also operated in Fort Lauderdale.
"Broward County was the perfect place for training because it was so flat and the weather was good all year long," Cunningham said. Local beach areas were restricted to military personnel, and blackouts at night were often called so that the German submarines that commonly patrolled offshore in the early years of the war would have difficulty seeing land, she said. A display case shows ration books and tickets, "The Victory Cook Book," which describes how to substitute for rationed foods, and the small bulbs that could be used during blackouts.
"It was a time of sacrifice," said Fort Lauderdale resident Allan McElhiney, who served aboard the USS Asheville during 1944-45 while it was at Port Everglades. "People all over the county were involved in the war. Some people were coming into downtown Fort Lauderdale on horse-drawn wagons because of the gas rationing." Other panels discuss area industries prominent during the war, such as agriculture and marine businesses, and document how the local economy boomed after the war's conclusion.
"The very first season after the war … ended up to be the biggest season that Broward County had had up until that time," said county historian Helen Landers. Hundreds of former service members who had been stationed here, like McElhiney, became county residents, and they were a key to later growth, Cunningham said. "It has so much to do with our growth and prosperity, more than anything probably," said John Bloom, a Fort Lauderdale physician who co-wrote a recent book with his wife Minerva about McElhiney. McElhiney moved to the area permanently in 1953 and helped found the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum in 1980.
"I fell in love with Fort Lauderdale because of the nice weather. The people are friendly down here, and I just enjoyed being here," he said. Historical commission and museum staff created the exhibit from their own collections, and the Boca Raton Historical Society, the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, the Hollywood Historical Society, and the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum also contributed materials or research.
"We see our agency as an umbrella that brings together the various area historical societies," Cunningham said.
To see the article online visit the Sun-Sentinel