“War Training in my Home Town”
We all come from somewhere that somewhere is the place we call home. Home is the place where you are from, the place where you were born and raised. Most people are proud of where they come from while others are not. For me, I am. I love my hometown. My whole family was born and raised in the good ol Carrabelle, the forgotten coast of Florida, home of the beautiful sandy white beaches and the delicious oysters. In fact I still live in the same county today just a different city. Even my great great great grandparents lived here. I find this little tourist town unique and even more unique now that I know it was a war training camp in 1941. In 1941 Camp Gordon Johnston was founded just a couple miles from Carrabelle in Lanark Village.
Camp Gordon Johnston was one of the many places soldiers trained during World War II. “This camp was known as the American war machine that went into action after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. At Camp Gordon Johnston a weapon was produced for the army- the amphibious solider! The camp got this name due to the amphibious training that took place here. Here, some of the toughest training in the world was active, that is because of the beaches, swamps and forests. The camp first opened in September 1941 and it was first called Camp Carrabelle. The name then got changed in honor of Col. Gordon Johnston. Johnston served in three wars. He earned many decorations, including the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery. Camp Gordon Johnston is located along the Gulf of Mexico and near Apalachee Bay. This camp covered nearly 165,000 acres in the Big Bend. It is 55 miles south of Tallahassee and it extends 36 miles along the Gulf of Mexico.” (Gray 1).
“St. George Island and Dog Island were even used for amphibious training. Field training consisted of hiking and hot weather. Soldiers also had to keep a close eye out for snakes, alligators, mosquitoes, and wild hogs. The camps nickname was Hell-by-the-Sea. Training in Carrabelle was also dangerous because live ammunition was fired over the heads of soldiers as they practiced, but training exercises on the beach were perfect. They practiced landing maneuvers that were used later during the Invasion of Normandy.” ( Florida War Diaries 1).
“Camp Gordon Johnston was a big deal. During WWII there were about 10,000 soldiers permanently assigned, and soon after with the rotations of army divisions the population would increase to 30,000. The camp became much larger than the surrounding towns, and at the end of WWII in August of 1945 the camp was deactivated.” (Gray 1). Later, the building facilities and land were sold as surplus just like Dale Mabry was.
Dale Mabry Field was located in the Tallahassee Florida and it became the city’s first airport. During the war the airfield grew to 1,720 acres and added 133 buildings. Dale Mabry Fields name originated from a World War I Army pilot and Tallahassee captain Dale Mabry. Mabry was killed while commanding the army in an airship. The airship crashed in Virginia, and history reports that in 1941 the field became and an Army base. In 1940 many began working to help this idea became real; soon Mabry was closed for general aviation during WW2. This base became known as a place where officers and enlisted men trained and lived. When World War II broke out and the US entered the war this field became very important. Thousands of soldiers entered the base and even the French and Chinese completed their training here. However, in 1945 at the end of the war thousands of veterans returned and got an education. Colleges experienced a record of enrollments and found it nearly impossible to accommodate those that applied. In return, to house the many veterans FSCW purchased buildings at Dale Mabry Field, and after the war many institutions bought land parcels in need of space. However, it was replaced in 1961 by Tallahassee Regional Airport and the land is now the campus of Tallahassee Community College. (Florida Memory).
Dale Mabry and Camp Gordon Johnston go hand in hand with the similarities of the war and my life. Both were places were training camps during WWII and then after the war they were sold. Camp Gordon Johnston took place in my hometown. I drive by the museum that is now there in memory every day. I also attend school at what use to be Dale Mabry Field. I find it very interesting and honoring to think about what these young men and women did for us as well as me walking the same grounds that they did. I can’t wait for my children to learn the history of these places but most importantly know that it happened in their home town.
“Dale Mabry Field.” wikipedia.org
“Florida War Diaries WWII Remembered.” wfsu.org
kilroywashere.org. Camp Gordon Johnston. 27 February 1997. Web. 9 April 2014.
Comments: Good start!! need to add one primary source so that this becomes a bit of history that no one else has ever told.