Military History

Irene Manning

We recently commemorated two important dates in history: May 8 (V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe) and May 21 (Armed Forces Day). Soon, we will commemorate another important date: Sept. 2 (V-J Day, the end of World War II in the Pacific). I was eight years old and sitting in the bathtub when, all of a sudden, a patriotic song on a loudspeaker that could be heard all over Miami Beach, Fla., filled the air. The war in Europe was over, and the celebration had begun. My dad took us downtown that evening, with everyone hugging and kissing. It was an exciting time for an 8-year-old. As I look back, my mind is flooded with memories. I remember collecting aluminum foil and making big aluminum foil balls for the war. I remember ration books (which I still have), blackouts, etc., but most of all, I remember the military.

From the Internet:

Between 1942 and 1945, Miami Beach played a significant role in World War II. Nearly half a million men, including matinee idol Clark Gable, took over more than 300 hotels and apartment buildings for the housing and training headquarters by the Army Air Force Technical Training Command. By the time the war was ended, one-fourth of all Army Air Force officers and one-fifth of the military’s enlisted men had been trained in Miami Beach, the most beautiful boot camp in America. Another group of hotels and buildings served as an Army Redistribution Station for the infantrymen returning from battle. Those men were united with their wives, debriefed about enemy positions, and given rest and relaxation before being released or reassigned. Young women of the Women’s Army Corps Communications Detachment were also stationed on Miami Beach. They were attributed with shortening the war by deciphering enemy messages and breaking codes.

Hotel rooms became barracks, hotel dining rooms became mess halls, a movie theater became a testing center, hotels became administrative offices, hotel pools and the ocean were used to teach lifesaving techniques, golf courses became parade grounds, and the beach was used for rifle ranges and physical training. Thanks to the efforts of preservationists, many of the buildings are still in operation today in the same, if not better, condition than they found them in when the Air Force took over the beach.

They marched by my apartment every day. I knew all the songs, and from that time on, I wanted to enter the military. In 1956 I joined the U.S. Air Force and became a flight attendant for Military Air Transport. We flew military personnel and their families to Japan, Hawaii, and Alaska. God bless America and all the veterans who have served.