The Dale Mabry Airfield is a site that marks an important time in American history during World War II. It was named after Captain Dale Mabry who died after World War I in a tragic plane crash with his crew on February 21, 1922. The field located in Tallahassee, Florida was used as an Army base for World War II from 1941 to 1945 and became a sufficient city as well. The base was used primarily for flight and mechanical training with not only American soldiers, but Chinese, British and African Americans as well. There were barracks for enlisted men and officers, runways, a hospital, and even a bowling alley.
During World War II before the civil rights movement, there was still a major race issue in America. Since race segregation was still enforced in America, it caused a major issue when the African American soldiers came to the base in Tallahassee. The Mabry Airfield base was segregated until 1948. This time of segregation caused a problem for war preparation and training, and the Mabry Airport had their share of “colored” people. More than 8,000 pilots trained at Mabry Airfield of all races, and more than a dozen died in tragic training accidents. Dr. Seuss writes about these issues during this time and encourages integration of all races to help win the war and conquer the Nazis.
Not only did the Mabry Airfield serve as a training facility, it was also a detention center for German Prisoners of war in the later part of 1944. After the war ended, there was a large amount of war veterans in Florida who would want to attend college. The GI bill gave benefits that would cause most veterans to enroll, and there wasn’t enough room for all of them in the University of Florida. The Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee allowed veterans to go to their school, which must have been a pleasure for the men. A photo in 1946 shows a group of girls surrounded by a soldier and he seemed quite happy where he was. In addition to the acceptance of veterans in the women’s school, the University provided houses for them, and they did so by purchasing the vacant land at the Mabry Field. The barracks were turned into dorms and classrooms, and officers’ headquarters became administrative buildings. Florida State University’s West campus was once the Mabry Field. It housed over 500 male students at the Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida.
The history of this Airfield and how it played a major role in World War II makes me very curious to learn more about what went on not so long ago in a place where I now live.
Sources Campbell, Doak Sheridan. Florida State University. Office of the President.Administrative Files, 1941-1957. State Library and Archives of Florida.
© 2002, © 2014 by Paul Freeman. Revised 3/1/14.