How did Florida fit into World War II? Here are some insights to the state's function during the war.
Spies in Florida:
*In 1913 a German immigrant by the name of Carl Hermann Schroetter came to the United States. He became a citizen and moved to Miami in 1930. He changed his name to Jack Post and ran a business as a charter boat captain. When the depression hit, he sold his boat and went to work as a cook near the Opa-Locka Navel Air Station. During this time he made five trips to Germany and was a known contact of Karl Ludwig in New York.
Issues arose in 1941 when the FBI discovered a Nazi spy ring in the United States headed by Ludwig. Jack Post was arrested that fall for espionage and held on a $25,000 bond. He was charged with providing the Nazis with information on the Naval Air Station. Post said he was forced to spy as he feared threats against his sister who was still in Germany. He was tried and convicted to ten years in prison in 1942 (if he had undergone the same experience during the war years he would have been executed). The trial and sentence was too much for him; he committed suicide bin an Atlanta prison 10 days after his sentence started (Clark 28).
*On June 13, 1942, four German soldiers landed on a beach south of Jacksonville. Dressed as tourists, they were to sent to blow up power plans and factories in the US. They were also trying to create support among German-Americans for the Reich. Two spies were headed to Chicago and two to New York to meet two pairs of spies sent down from the north. Neither set made it. The FBI caught one spy who turned in the others. A secret trial condemned all 8 to death, though two spies who cooperated with the FBI had their sentences commuted. The incident was kept from the press (Clark 29-30).
Florida and training:
*During World War II British airmen trained in Florida year round. Thirty six airmen died in training and, since British policy called for burying the war dead where they died, twenty three British flyers were buried in Arcadia; thirteen others were buried in Miami. The British government placed headstones engraved with the Royal Air Force emblem and an epitaph from the family on each grave (Clark 29).
Florida and POW camps:
During World War II POW camps were established throughout Florida. The main camp was established at Camp Blanding near Starke (40 miles south of Jacksonville). Initially, it housed German Americans from the US and Latin America who were suspected of being sympathetic to Germany. These were later joined by prisoners of war as Americans began to win battles. There were about 4,000 Germans set up in branch camps around the state (Clark 27). (German POWs marching, below).