|Miami Beach, barrier island|
Miami Beach officials and residents held their breath after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941; they thought the city was in for a tough time. But weeks later, tourists trekked to the winter playground, filling up hotel rooms.
And so did the military.
Military training operations were brought to Miami Beach early in 1942. Headquarters and drill grounds for the Army Air Force Officers Training School were established at the municipal golf course – then known as the Bayshore Golf Course. The Army first appropriated the Boulevard Hotel as quarters for arriving soldiers in February, 1942. The Nautilus Hotel was soon used as a hospital.
March 1, 1942, the New York Times reported that the “Army was not taking over Miami Beach.” Lieut. Col. James S. Stowell, commander of the training school, announced the army would appropriate five hotels and bring in 950 soldiers – “at least for now.” Soldiers would stay for a three-month training course before receiving their commissions.
Soldiers came by the thousands. Tourists cheerfully moved to other accommodations. Beaches, including the one at Bal Harbour, were used as rifle ranges. By 1943, 188 hotels, 109 apartment houses and 18 private homes had been appropriated by the military. About 13,000 students were graduated from the officer training school in Miami Beach; the last class to go through was in June 1943. Soldiers engaged their own rooms in hotels with military contracts. Food was not arranged for through a military mess until late in operations – adding to area business revenues.
Business boomed. Miami Beach continued to draw entertainers and property sales soared, setting the stage for the major expansion of the 1950s.
New York Times, March 1, 1942
Kleinberg, Howard. Miami Beach: A History. Miami: Centennial Press (1996).
Tags: Miami Beach history, Miami Beach during the 1940s, Miami Beach during World War II, WWII in Miami Beach, Florida film researcher, historical researcher