Between 1942 and 1945, Miami Beach played a significant role in WWII. Nearly half a million men, including matinee idol Clark Gable, were stationed there for training by the Army Air Forces Technical Training Command. A group of young women in the Army Air Forces Communication Detachment were also stationed in Miami Beach and credited with shortening the war by breaking the enemy’s codes.
Hotel rooms became barracks and administrative offices, hotel dining rooms became mess halls, a movie theater became a testing center, hotel pools and the ocean were used to teach life saving techniques, golf courses became parade grounds, and the beach was used for rifle ranges and physical training. Despite the brutal conditions and rigorous training, their recollections include romps in the ocean, world-class entertainment, fishing trips, and romance.
The troops that passed through Miami Beach claimed that they had been sent to “the most beautiful boot camp in America.” Many of these young servicemen and women “got sand in their shoes” and vowed to return if they survived the war. Indeed they did return, packing up their families and heading South to take advantage of the GI Bill at the University of Miami and buying the houses that were popping up all over Miami Beach. Others returned year after year for vacations and others returned when they retired.
1943 Photos of trainees marching on the beach and on Ocean Drive donated by Susan Carter of Wilmington, DE. Her father was stationed in Miami Beach.