War Comes to Florida
World War II was the most significant event in modern Florida. The war swept Florida cities, farms, and people into its vortex. Urban neighborhoods, ethnic organizations, and garden clubs became part of an organizing frenzy seldom matched in American history. Unleashing the greatest economic boom in American history, Florida’s underdeveloped economy surged. But the war did not so much transform Florida as create the opportunities for post-war development. Most importantly, the war brought millions of young men, women, and workers to Florida for the first time. Six decades after V-J Day ended the conflict, war’s legacies can be seen everywhere: from the vantage point of millions of veterans who chose Florida for a new home (in 2005, Clearwater had the highest proportion of veterans as residents of any American city); a military-industrial complex evident in the atomic energy plants of Pinellas County and the military defense industries in Brevard County; the presence of VA hospitals, military cemeteries, and VFW lodges; and the enduring presence of air and naval bases in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West.
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